Houay Xay sits about 60 km downriver from Ton Paeng. The cosy hillside port has long served as the Mekong’s main Thai-Lao immigration checkpoint and pier for cruises to/from Luang Prabang. Previously, tourists crossed from Thailand by ferry to Houay Xay’s steep paved landing, and raced like rats to the next boat to Luang Prabang.
However, savvy travellers spend the day seeing historic Houay Xay’s sites. They stay over for a carefree night, waking up to a lazy morning and reserved front-row seats for a cruise. Meanwhile, hurried tourists arrive in the morning via the Thai-Lao Bridge to a crowded concrete port and rush to catch a boat. But you can enjoy a relaxing stroll around town and a quiet night before moving on.
Take in the old-world charm of this ageless Mekong port with a 1,000-year-old temple, teak temple, and morning market by cycle, tuk tuk, or foot. While hurried tourists on a timetable overlook the town on a tour booked in Chiang Rai, Houay Xay maintains its relaxing yesteryear atmosphere, a perfect watch-stopping transition to Lao and the 2-day cruise to Luang Prabang.
Tourists have four main cruise options to/from Luang Prabang:
• 2-day public riverboat with self-booked accommodation in Pak Beng
• 2-day private riverboat with meals, village and attraction visits, and Pak Beng hotel room
• 2-day luxury cruise boats with stays onboard or at upscale accommodation
• 1-day speedboat (fast longboat)