What to See in Bokeo
All tourist attractions around Huay Xai can be seen on foot within a day. Observe the view from the top of the Chinese-styled temple, Jom Khao Manilat, the most important local sacred place. It's not to be missed and why not have a look at the stunning French-built Fort Carnot. Both sitesare located near the ferry crossing pier Huay Xai Chiang Kong.
Besides temples, markets, and other site attractions around the town, Huay Xai offers several interesting villages, where traditional ways of life can be observed and where you can learn how villagers earn their living. Sightseeing through villages in the city should take approximately half a day. Some of the hill-tribe villages can be found within walking distance and others can be reached with an open taxi or 'songteaow'. Hill-tribe villages in Bokeo are rather traditional and more conservatyive than those found in northern Thailand. Visitors are suggested to see the Village Headman (or phuu nyai baan) before strolling around the villages.
Ban Khao Pun
Many villagers' occupation is to produce 'kanom jeen' or 'rice vermicelli'. Lao people usually eat kanom jeen with their famous fermented fish sauce, phla raa. The kanom jeen that is made in Ban Khao Pun village is exported to Thai border at Chiang Kong. Visitors are highly recommended to try it out, along with with the variety of sauces consumed with it.
Ban Nam Sang Hill-Tribe Village
The best kept secret in Huay Xai is the Ban Nam Sang hill-tribe village. Less than 20 kilometers or only an hour ride on bumpy road from Huay Xai. The village hosts to a large population of the rare Lao Huay ethnicity. It is best not to bring gifts or items such as sweets, T-shirts, pharmaceuticals as it is felt that these may threaten their traditional ways. However, if visitors want to help they can donate some money or discreet gifts to the headman. Such money will be used for the village school. A reminder, visitors are recommended to check-in with the village headman (phuu nyai baan) first.
Ban Tom Lao
The name of the village literally means 'Brew-comes'. 'Lao tom' - a form of hooch - is illegal in many countries but is legal in Laos. Apart from growing rice and working the land, villagers here produce many kind of alcoholic beverages such as, Sa Tor and Kasae. The alcoholic degree of each beverage is very difficult to determine as it depends on how long they have been fermented. However, it is generally thought to be more than 40 degrees.
Ban Yong Hin
Thai Lue Tribe Village features a unique attraction: mobile wooden houses. The Thai Lue people build their houses by placing each stake on top of the stone. The idea is thought to protect their wooden houses from termites rather than for mobility.
French-built, high-walled and occupied by Lao troops. A top adjacent hill and is clearly visible from the opposite side of the Mekong river, Chiang Kong, Thailand. It is off limits to all visitors.
Jom Khao Manilat Temple
When in Huay Xai, Jom Khao Manilat Temple is a must-see. The temple was built in 1880 out of teak and is Shan-style, with spectacular painting in bright colours, like those sacred places in Jakarta. Also, a stele-house, donated by a former Chaing Kong prince in 1458, is located here. Jom Khao Manilat affords a fascinating overlooking view of the town and the Mekong River below, a perfect site especially at sunset. The temple is just a few minutes' walk from the ferry pier.
Muang Bokeo Huay Xai Market
Also simply known as Talad Sao, Muang Bokeo Huay Xai market is located on Saykhong Road, in the southern part of the town. This presents a good opportunity to observe local lifestyles and is a good place to shop for local products at cheap prices. The market sells fish and meat, fresh vegetables, and some main household products. This is also the main road-transport depot.
Pha Beuk (The Giant Catfish)
Huay Xai is also a major fishing ground for the phla beuk, (Pangasianodon Gigas) or giant catfish - the biggest freshwater fish in the world (two-three meteres in length and weighing up to 300 kilograms). They are believed to swim all the way from the source of the Mekong, Qinghai Province in China. Although the phla beuk annual catch has dwindled in recent years, they can be seen during mid-April and May.