Bokeo in Laos sounds new and inviting to some travelers worldwide who look for something interesting, beautiful, and pristine in the “Land of A Million Elephants.” If you just feel interested in its name in the first place, find more helpful information on this Laos travel guide book about Bokeo.
Bokeo (previously named Hua Khong which means “Head of Mekong) is a province in the north of Laos. It is also the smallest and least inhabited area in the country. The destination borders Luang Namtha Province to the northeast, Xaignabouli Province to the south, and Oudomxai Province to the east. It shares the international borders with Thailand to the southwest and Myanmar to the east and northwest. Its provincial capital is Houay Xay which borders Thailand and functions as an economic hub. Geographically, Bokeo belongs to the “Golden Triangle” area. The province is home to 34 ethnic groups who offer the harmonious culture mix. They make this off-the-beaten-track province one of the most ethnically diverse sites in Laos. Regarding the local tourist highlights, they refer to the age-old pagodas, temples, markets, and pristine countryside landscape. The travel to Bokeo might not provide you with the flattering corners of the skyscrapers, commercial centers, or luxurious resorts. Rather, you can expect to see the original charm of Laos’s nature and ethnic people.
What to see in Bokeo Province
Houay Xay Town
The provincial capital of Bokeo is best explored on foot, and it is ideal for the one-day city tour. Some travelers appreciate the antique look of the town with the sacred temples such as Jom Khao Manilat. Besides temples, Houay Xay also has the interesting local markets and traditional hill-tribe villages. The short stay at this place of interest lets you experience how the villagers live and work. The villages just take a walking distance to move around and explore each. A great site to see is the mysterious Ban Nam Sang hill-tribe site (around 20km from Houay Xay). In the ethnic villages, you can donate money or gift to the headman. What’s more, a symbolic characteristic of Houay Xay is the giant catfish. It has the ideal freshwater fishing ground for the catfish to live. The most suitable time to see these fish are mid-April and May. It’s also a great idea to try catfish dishes in a Laos-style family meal. The experience is warm, authentic, and memorable.
Muang Bokeo Huay Xai Market
Muang Bokeo Huay Xai Marketgives the authentic feeling for a Laos market in the off-the-beaten-track place. In the southern part of the provincial town, this market is filled with lots of local items at the inexpensive prices. You can expect to find a variety of products (fish, vegetable, household items, handicrafts, etc.) in the bustling atmosphere. Just find a comfortable spot to watch how the residents are buying and selling things. The scenery becomes most bustling and authentic in the early morning. Photography opportunities are unlimited, and it is impossible that you leave the market without the attractive sets of photos about Bokeo.
Ban Khao Pun Village
This is a traditional village which produces rice vermicelli (called “kanomjeen” in the Laos language). Visiting Ban Khao Pun lets you witness how the local people make the delicious rice vermicelli which is later exported to Thailand border at Chiang Kong. The visit urges you to find the basic value of life, learn new knowledge, enjoy the new taste, and appreciate what life has offered. If wanted, you can buy the rice vermicelli and take some packets home.
Ban Yong Hin
This village is home to generations of Thai Lue tribe who practices the unique tradition. They build the mobile wooden houses, and those constructions will be the good photogenic objects for you all to capture. That said, the ethnic people will place each stake on top of the stone to construct the houses. Their original aim is to secure their wooden houses from termites. But, it is a surprising scenery for the visitors.
Jom Khao Manilat Temple
Erected in 1880, the temple of Jom Khao Manilat is made from teak and in Shan style. It is a must-see landmark in Bokeo, being recognizable for the brightly painted walls, the sacred religious objects inside, and the fantastic view overlooking the town as well as the mighty Mekong River. The holy temple looks magnificently during the sunset. People come here to worship and enjoy the magnetic view. The temple is very popular amongst the local people, and it is quite easy to ask for any of them to show you the directions to the scenic religious site. Make sure you don’t ignore this antique and consecrated venue!
Exciting activities in Bokeo
Besides visiting temples and ethnic villages, Bokeo has appealing nature. Bokeo Nature Reserve is home to the black crested gibbons, elephants, beers, wild water buffalo, birds, sambar bear, and gaur. This forested and mountainous area is best for sightseeing wildlife and staying truly friendly to nature.
Especially, gibbon experience Bokeo on the high tree houses is exciting. Also, Bokeo has Mekong Important Bird Area for fantastic bird watching of cormorant, martin, swan goose, or black-bellied tern. The Mekong River itself has the world’s largest catfish species (up to 3m long).
How to get to Bokeo Laos
There are the daily flights to Ban Houay Xay Airport in Bokeo Province run by Lao Airlines. Provided that you depart from Tachileik or Luang Namtha, either of the destinations offers the flight to Airport in Bokeo. This channel saves you much time, and give the ultimate comfort.
Traveling to Bokeo by bus from the nearby provinces is the popular channel. Most travelers prefer the Northern Bus Terminal from Vientiane to Bokeo. The most popular bus routes are Vientiane to Bokeo and Bokeo to Luang Prabang. Besides buses, you can take advantages of the tuk-tuk, pickup trucks, motorbike, or taxi to reach the destination from your places. The access to Bokeo is available all year round, and you decide how to get there.
It’s feasible to enter Bokeo by boat from Chiang Khom (Thailand) or Oudomxai Province of Laos. The boat trip lets you explore “Head of Mekong” in a calm and idyllic manner. On the boating route, remember to cherish the charming countryside landscapes!
Best time to visit Bokeo in Laos
The beautiful and primitive “Head of Mekong” destination of Bokeo welcomes the visitors all year round. You might have the preference for the cool or sweaty condition to decide on when to go, but there are two distinct seasons to notice.
- May – October: These months belong to the rainy season in Bokeo which showers the destination with ideal access by boat, the comfortable weather condition, and the fresh landscape. Things become lush during the rain. As a result, this might be the best time to visit Bokeo via boat along the powerful and charming Mekong River. Nonetheless, make sure you check if it is not rainy outside to go out and explore! The boat trip in the rain is unpleasant at all.
- November – April: These months characterize the destination with the hot atmosphere, and the temperature can reach as high as 40 Celsius degrees. The two hottest months in this northern province of Laos are March and April when the tourists should always bring hats, umbrellas, and sunscreen when they go outside to explore the fantastic landmarks. The hot condition in Laos is hard to endure, but the festive period between December and January is also ideal for a visit to Bokeo.