Huay Xai is a riverside town in the Northern Laos province of Bokeo. It faces across the Mekong River to Chiang Khong in Thailand. Huay Xai’s primary attraction for tourists is as a crossing point between Thailand and Laos and as the start point for Mekong River cruises to Pakbeng and Luang Prabang. International tourists travelling between Chiang Khong and Huay Xai are now required to cross the Mekong by using Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge 4.
Huay Xai is 500kms by road from Luang Prabang. Buses connect the two, but the boat journey down the Mekong River is by far the most popular means of travel on this route. The Friendship Bridge 4 is 12 kms south of Huay Xai. Chiang Rai is a little over 100kms from the bridge and Chiang Mai about 300kms. The guide below provides details about what to see and do in Huay Xai as well where to stay and eat, and how to get here.
Last Updated: June 2019
WHAT TO SEE
Jom Khao Manilat Temple
Jom Khao Manilat Temple (also spelt Wat Chomkao Manilat) is a colourful Buddhist temple perched on a hill above Huay Xai. Buddha statues and attractive religious artwork plus the views over the Mekong at sunset make this temple a worthwhile addition to sightseeing tours of the town.
Huay Xai Market
The town’s main market opens early and is centrally located near Fort Carnot. Although the emphasis at the market is fresh produce some stallholders sell cooked food, colourful phasin sarongs, homemade jewellery and souvenirs, and household articles.
Fort Carnot is a legacy of French colonial rule and a fairly modern structure built in the early years of the 20th century. Despite the fort’s relative modernity, it is not in a good state of repair and it is safer to view from the outside than by climbing the derelict main tower.
Nam Nyon Waterfall
Nam Nyon Waterfall is a 25km trip north of Huay Xai. The falls cascade over rocks about seven metres high and fall into a pool which is deep enough to swim in during the rainy season.
The Ruins of Souvannakhomkham
Close to the east bank of the Mekong, the ruins of Souvannahkhomkham date from as long ago as the 14th century. There are 40 different areas of ruins and these feature the remains of temples, chedis and statues of Buddha. A highlight is a well-preserved Buddha statue standing seven-meters high. Due to the fact Souvannahkhomkham is an hour’s drive from Huay Xai and reached via bumpy roads, a guided tour is the best choice for a visit.
WHAT TO DO
Trekking and Ziplining
The Gibbon Experience is the chief attraction at Nam Kan National Park and offers the chance of trekking and ziplining through pristine forest. This eco-adventure park features 15kms of ziplines and the longest is an exhilarating half-a-kilometre. The lines connect elevated tree-house platforms, verdant hilltops and zoom high above rivers and valleys. Adventure packages are either three or four days and combine ziplining, trekking and overnight stays in tree-houses.
The Gibbon Experience: P.O.Box 400, Huay Xai, Bokeo, Laos | Open: 08:00-17:00 (Daily) | Tel: +856 84 21 20 21, +856 30 57 45 866 | Website | Email |
Sightseeing Cruises on the Mekong River
Travellers not heading downstream to Luang Prabang could take a shorter sightseeing cruise on the Mekong. The typical route from Huay Xai takes in a village called Nong Xai and goes as far downstream as the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge. The cruise is usually around two hours long.
The Boat to Luang Prabang
The cruise down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang is a highlight of Southeast Asian travel odysseys. The slow boat or luxury cruises operated by Luang Say Cruises and two other companies allow visitors glimpses of landscapes and mountains seemingly unchanged by the passage of time. Standard cruises from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang take two days and include an overnight stay in Pakbeng. The fast boat cuts out the need for the overnight stop but does not afford the same leisurely views on the way.
Luang Say Cruises: #50/4 Sakkarine Rd., Ban Vat Sene, Luang Prabang, Laos | Tel: +856 71 252 553, +856 20 56 44 90 18 | Website | Facebook | Email |
WHERE TO EAT
Huay Xai is not the gourmet capital of the world, but does offer a fair choice of dining options. Everything from bowls of tasty noodle soups to filled baguettes and steaks provide variety. In addition to our recommended eateries in town there are numerous stalls and small restaurants serving traditional Lao foods such as barbecued chicken, sticky rice, somtam spicy salad and Khao Pun noodle soups similar to the kanom jeen served everywhere in Thailand.
T-Bone Steak Box
The T-Bone is a western themed steakhouse at which its signature steak plus the likes of rib-eye steak, strip loin steak and breaded fish with French fries salad and sauce will satisfy the cravings of diners looking for a change from rice and noodle dishes.
T-Bone Steak Box: Huay Xai, Bokeo, Laos | Open: 11:00-22:30 (Closed on Monday) | Tel: +856 20 56 134 771
The Sabai is a welcoming open-air café on a side road close to Bokeo School. It is open for breakfast lunch and dinner. The menu is varied and comes with items such as baguettes, Lao coffee, fried rice, Lao curry and tempura. The Sabai has garnered rave reviews and is popular with those on a budget.
Sabai Cafe: Huay Xai, Bokeo, Laos | Open: 07:00-09:30 (Daily) | Tel: +856 20 58 981 583
The Terrasse is a firm favourite for travellers in the know and is tucked up a side street on the route up to Jom Khao Manilat Temple. The menu offers an eclectic range of food and drinks which include stir fried vegetables, fried rice, grilled chicken, ribs, beef steak with French fries, tom yam, Beer Lao and fresh fruit juice. Due to its elevated location, the Terrasse offers pleasing views over the town, the Mekong and across to Thailand.
Terrasse Restaurant: Huay Xai, Bokeo, Laos | Open: 08:30-22:30 (Closed on Sunday) | Tel: +856 30 46 97 019
Another centrally located eatery, the Dream Bakery serves a range of cakes, doughnuts and sweet treats which includes apple pie. The coffee here has been rated the best in town by many a visitor. Coffee options are espresso and hot or iced cappuccino, latte, Americano or mocha. Those with a craving for a burger will find the Dream burger does the trick.
Dream Bakery: Huay Xai, Bokeo, Laos | Open: 07:30-19:30 (Closed on Sunday) | Tel: +856 20 23 925 477 | Facebook
WHERE TO STAY
Houayxai Riverside Hotel This hotel combines Phonevichith Restaurant and Guesthouse and enjoys a prime spot right on the banks of the Mekong River. A stay in one of the Houayxai’s deluxe rooms gives guests panoramic views of the locality from the breeze-cooled comfort of their own balconies. Rooms come with air-conditioning, cable TV, complimentary WiFi and en suite bathrooms. The restaurant serves Asian and Western food while massage, car rental and tour services round off the onsite amenities…more info & booking
M Bokeo Hotel
The M Bokeo Hotel is an upmarket premises for the discerning traveller and comes with the added attraction of a convenient location very close to the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge. The M provides free shuttle services to town and to the bridge. Well-appointed guestrooms offer full amenities including air-conditioning, WiFi, minibars, televisions, kettles to make hot drinks, balconies and free toiletries…more info & booking
The Oudomsin Hotel is a budget-friendly two-star property just off the main street in Huay Xai. Rooms are available with fans or air-conditioners and feature WiFi and private bathrooms. Air-conditioned rooms have their own balconies…more info & booking
The Sabaidee is one of the most popular accommodation options in Huay Xai. Rooms have private bathrooms, WiFi and comfortable beds. The beds have garnered numerous positive reviews. An added attraction is a central location close to the old ferry port and the main dining venues…more info & booking
GETTING TO HUAY XAI
Huay Xai has a small provincial airport which currently serves Lao Skyway fights from the Lao capital city of Vientiane. Flights operate twice daily in each direction. Lao Airlines no longer flies between Luang Prabang and Huay Xai and there are no international flights from Thailand.
Huay Xai Airport: | Lao Skyway: Laoskyway Hotel, Asean Rd., Sikhodtabong, Vientiane, Laos, Tel: +856 21 513 022, Call Center 1441, Website, Email,
From Chiang Khong, Chiang Rai
There are no direct buses from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai. The easiest, and most cost effective, option is tuk-tuk from Chiang Khong to the Friendship Bridge, cross the bridge on a shuttle bus and then take one of the official Lao tuk-tuk taxis to Huay Xai.
Bus From Chiang Rai
From Chiang Rai, the international bus service to Huay Xai-Bokeo Station is the most convenient choice. Two air-conditioned buses a day are deployed on this route and depart from Bus Station 2 in Chiang Rai. Departure times are 10:00 and 16:30 and total travel time to Huay Xai is three hours. This includes the time needed to pass through immigration checkpoints for Thailand and Laos. Huay Xai to Chiang Rai buses leave at 09:00 and 16:00.
Chiang Rai Bus Station 2: Tel +66 53 773 550, +66 95 145 1753, | Bokeo Bus Station (Phetaloun Bus Station):
Bus From Chiang Mai
From Chiang Mai, there are two principal choices. The first is to take a Green Bus Company service to Chiang Khong and then head for the Friendship Bridge using the method detailed above. Choice two is a Green Bus Company service to Chiang Rai and then a Thai-Lao international bus.
Chiang Mai Bus Station 3: Tel +66 95 145 1756, +66 95 145 1766, | Green Bus: Tel +66 53 266 480, Website,
Boat From Luang Prabang
The boat trip upstream on the Mekong River from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai is a popular means of travel on this route. Like the downstream cruises, passengers have the choice of luxury cruise, slow boat or fast boat. Passengers on the slow and luxury boats spend the night in Pakbeng.
Bus From Luang Prabang
There are several bus services a day on the Luang Prabang-Huay Xai route. Journey time is about 12 hours and the choice of bus is standard or overnight sleeper. The overnight buses are equipped with bunk beds. Passenger van is a quicker option but still takes nine hours to cover the distance between the two locations. 12GO Asia provides advanced reservations services for passenger vans.
The majority of the hotels and eateries in Huay Xai are within walking distance of the old ferry port. Lao-style tuk-tuks are the only option for trips to the slow and fast boat jetties, the town’s bus stations,the airport and the Friendship Bridge. Very few places in Huay Xai offer bicycle, motorcycle or car hire. For motorcycle hire, Laos Tours Smile is recommended and the Houayxai Riverside Hotel for car rental.
Laos Tours Smile: #11/139 Khemkhong Rd., Huay Xai, Bokeo, Laos | Open: 08:00-19:00 (Daily) | Tel: +856 305 385 170 | Website | Facebook |