The best things to do in Huay Xai, Laos

Welcome to Huay Xai, a small village nestled along the Mekong River in Laos. This village is for many travelers a stopover when catching the 2-day slow boat to Luang Prabang or starting the Gibbon Experience. You will probably have some time off in Huay Xai to do some activities. This blog post describes the best things to do in Huay Xai. Believe me, this place is less boring than you think.

– Explore Fort Carnot

Visiting Fort Carnot in Huay Xai is like a journey back in time. The fort was originally built during the French colonial period in Huay Xai and offers a glimpse into the region’s rich historical past. Located on top of a hill, overlooking the Mekong River, this well-preserved fort is a very interesting place to visit. As I wandered through its walls, I felt a deep sense of wonder at the stories it must hold.

– Visit Wat Keophone Savanthanaram

Wat Keophone Savanthanaram is a temple that is best known for its murals and beautiful golden and blue colors. If you walk up the hill behind the temple itself, you can find a large statue of a Reclining Buddha.

– Chat with the fishermen and explore the Mekong River

Since Huay Xai is nestled along the Mekong River in Laos, it’s the perfect place to make a boat trip on the Mekong River. Go to the river side and see if you can join any local fishermen. For a more immersive experience, consider taking the 2-day slow boat trip to Luang Prabang. This trip allows you to savor the slow pace of river life and witness the untouched landscapes in Laos. I loved it!

– Support the Kajsiab project

Project Kajsiab is a grassroots initiative community centre located in Daauw. It runs several projects aimed at promoting responsible tourism, education, healthcare and women empowerment. At Daauw you can overnight in a buganlow, have a meal (try the pizza!) or buy some ethnic handicrafts. The food is really good and there’s a nice common area with a fireplace.

– Watch life along the Mekong River at the riverfront

Huay Xai’s riverfront is the heart of the town, where locals and visitors gather to relax and watch life along the Mekong River. Here, you will see many people having a picknick or children swimming and playing in the Mekong river.

– Shop ethnic handicrafts, fruits or vegetables

No trip is complete without taking home some mementos. In Huay Xai, you’ll find numerous shops and markets offering an assortment of handicrafts and souvenirs made by local artisans. From woven textiles and handmade jewelry to traditional handicrafts, each piece reflects the region’s vibrant culture and artistic heritage. Purchasing these items not only supports the local economy, but also helps preserve traditional craftsmanship.

The morning market is the biggest market in Huay Xai. As the name suggests, you need to get here as early as possible. Here, you can find breakfast, vegetables, fruits, textiles and ethnic handicrafts.

– See the sunset at Wat Chomkao Manilat, a buddhist temple

Wat Chomkao Manilat is the town’s most prominent temple and stands on a hill, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Mekong River and Thailand on the opposite bank. At the temple, you can find a row of Buddha carvings which are covered in gold. I highly recommend climbing up the 100+ steps and to see the sunset from here. Be sure to cover your shoulders and knees, so you can go for a walk around the temple as well.

Photo by Jesse Schoff on Unsplash

– Have a drink along the river bank

Huay Xai is not well known for it’s nightlife scene, but you can find some cozy restaurants and bars along the riverbank for a drink. If you like alcohol, make sure to try a Beer Lao, the local Laotian Brew.

– Eat at the Huay Xai Night Market

After seeing the sun set over the Mekong river, head to the Huay Xai Night Market. Here, you can savor an array of Lao dishes and street food delights. Examples are the spicy papaya salad (tam mak hoong), a savory Lao sausage (sai oua) or some delicious noodle soups. Engage with friendly vendors, try your hand at some basic Lao phrases, and discover the warmth of Lao hospitality.

Things to do near Huay Xai

Below I described some activities that can be done in the surroundings of Huay Xai. You can either book one of those activities at your ho(s)tel or rent a scooter and drive their yourself. Enjoy!

– Gibbon Experience: an adventure in the canopy

For nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies alike, the Gibbon Experience is a must-do in Huay Xai. This eco-tourism activity takes you on a thrilling zip lining journey through the treetops of the Bokeo Nature Reserve. This reserve is home to the elusive black crested gibbon. If you are lucky, you can see some gibbons when zip lining. Imagine sleeping high in the treetops, zip lining around, and being surrounded by the Laotian jungle. Well, that is exactly what the Gibbon Experience looks like. The Gibbon Experience not only offers an unforgettable adventure, but also supports conservation efforts and local communities. It’s a pricey activity, but definitely worth it!

– Trekking in the Bokeo Nature Reserve

Apart from the Gibbon Experience, the Bokeo Nature Reserve offers various trekking options. Here, you can hike through rainforest and along beautiful waterfalls. Keep an eye out for elusive species like the black-cheeked gibbon, tigers, bears, elephants, chimps, buffalo, birds and insects.

– Swim at the hidden Nam Nyon Waterfall

Escape the heat and immerse yourself in the cooling embrace of Nam Nyon Waterfall, a beautiful hidden waterfall located outside Huay Xai. With scooter it takes around 60 minutes to reach the waterfall. The pool is large enough to swim in.

– Embrace local culture

Venture beyond Huay Xai’s boundaries to encounter the diverse hill communities, like the Ban Nam Chan Laten village. Several local tour operators offer authentic experiences to visit these villages, where you can immerse yourself in their customs, traditions, and craftsmanship.

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

Tips for traveling to Huay Xai and staying overnight

Friendship Bridge nr. 4 is a bridge connecting Chiang Khong and Huay Xai, Thailand and Laos. It’s a popular and easy way to cross the border and the Mekong River.

If you have no accommodation yet in Huay Xai, I can really recommend staying at the ‘Little Hostel‘. Before staying at this hostel, I was in contact with the owner via Whatsapp. She arranged the slow boat tickets for me and gave me useful information about the border crossing and slow boat. The hostel room and facilities were great.


In conclusion, Huay Xai is a nice village located along the banks of the Mekong River. Whether you are passing through on your way to Luang Prabang or immersing yourself in the Gibbon Experience, this village has much more to offer than those two activities. From exploring the historical Fort Carnot to witnessing the stunning sunset at Wat Chomkao Manilat, there are enough things to do in Huay Xai.

If you have any questions about the above mentioned information, please let me know in the comment section below. I’m happy to help you. Safe travels!

Author: Daphne

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