Photo: Lunch in Huay Xai.

Introduction

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Capital of Bokeo province and the northern gateway to Laos, Huay Xai is the most popular entry point to the country from northern Thailand. A big opium shipment centre for the Americans during the war, the town now busies itself moving people rather than narcotics — and what a fine job it does.


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The border is known as the Chiang Khong/Huay Xai crossing and the two towns face each other across the Mekong. Travellers once crossed between the two countries by boat but since 2013, the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge 4 located 10 kilometres from town is the official border; it is no longer possible for foreigners to ferry across. Many people choose to stay overnight in Chiang Khong on the Thai side, but Huay Xai is a good enough spot for a night and makes catching the slow boat a little less stressful. It’s also a good place to ease yourself into Laos, particularly if Pakbeng is to be your next stop.

The slowboat pier. Photo taken in or around Huay Xai, Laos by Cindy Fan.

The slowboat pier. Photo: Cindy Fan

If you’re concerned about missing the slow boat if you sleep in Chiang Khong and cross the border in the morning, don’t worry — as long as you drag yourself out of bed at a reasonable hour, you’ll be fine. The border is open from 06:00 to 22:00, the mandatory shuttle bus across the bridge starts at 07:30 and the slow boat may leave as late at 11:30.

Huay Xai has a bunch of guesthouses and some restaurants that more than adequately cater to traveller tastes and many have information about travelling through northern Laos. Their main pre-occupation however is trying to sell you a ticket on the slow boat to Luang Prabang since the vast majority of people who cross into Laos at Huay Xai leave as soon as ... Travelfish members only (Around 900 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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