Houay Xay, sometimes known as Ban Houay Xay is a town near the Thai border and is the capital of Bokeo Province.  The town lies on the Western banks of the Mekong River opposite Chiang Kong Disctrict of Chiang Rai, Thailand and serves as the northernmost border crossing between the two countries.  The town is home to several eye-catching temples as well as being a gateway to some of the region’s most unique ethnic villages and the almost mystic-like Mekong Giant Catfish.

The most prominent temple in Houay Xay is Jom Khao Manilat Temple.  It was built in 1880 and follows the Shan-style of architecture, with bright colorful paintings and murals.  The temple’s location on top of a hill allows visitors to watch the sun set over the Mekong River, a truly beautiful sight in itself.  The temple is a short walk away from the ferry pier.

The local market, known as Talad Sao is a great place to experience the lifestyle of Houay Xay’s residents and to observe the local products on hand.  The best time to be at the market is early morning, when it is at its busiest and certainly at its most colorful.

About 20 kilometers away from Houay Xay is Ban Nam Sing Village.  What makes this village interesting is that it is home to the Lao Huay ethnic group, one of the rarest in Southeast Asia.  Their way of life has not changed much over the centuries, so it is best not to offer gifts to them as this will surely change their traditional lifestyle.  A donation to the headman will be greatly appreciated instead, of which the proceeds will be used for the local school.

Ban Yong Hin Village, home to the Thai Lue people features a unique attraction.  Here, the people live in mobile wooden houses.  This is done by placing the house’s stilts onto stones instead of into the ground.  Not only does this provided mobility if the situation calls for it, but this distinctive architectural feature also protects their residences from termites.

If one wants to see how rice vermicelli (kanom jeen) is produced, then head over to Ban Khao Pun.  Once there, having the kanom jeen with fermented fish sauce is a must try.  The noodles here are of top quality along with the fish sauce.

An interesting attraction at Houay Xay is the Mekong Giant Catfish.  There are reports of this fish growing to a length of three meters and some with a mass of about 300 kilograms.  The catfish, sadly is in danger of extinction due to overfishing and development.  They can however, be seen in the river during mid-April and May.

Houay Xay is certainly a pleasant town with its fair share of attractions.  The town is easily accessible by foot and the whole town can be explored within a day.  Your first destination in Exotissimo’s Laos in Depth tour is at the laid-back border town.  This tour is the perfect in-depth introduction to Laos, immersing you to its friendly people, intriguing spiritual culture and natural wonders.

If you like cycling, then why not try our Splendors of North Laos Biking Tour?  This tour takes you to the wonders of this region, often overlooked by visitors to the country.  The last leg of this memorable cycling tour is at Houay Xay.  You can contact us if you would like to extend your stay at this charming town by the Mekong or if you would like to tweak any of our tours.