Bokeo is the smallest province in Laos. It is just over 6,000 square kilometres and its northern position means it has borders with both Myanmar and Thailand. Its name means ‘’gem mine’’ and comes about because of its deposits of semi-precious and precious stones, including sapphires. There are 34 ethnic groups within the province’s small population with the largest town the capital, Houayxay on the border of what is described as the ‘’Golden Triangle’’, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. In past times it was on the trade route between China and Thailand and now the ‘’Golden Triangle’’ is an economic initiative which has developed a duty free zone with Chinese investment leading to development of hotels and casinos by the Chinese.
How to get there
Indochina tour packages use overland border crossings as well as flights. Travellers to this province may not find it easy but it is worth the effort. Some visitors arrive by boat, especially on the Mekong from Luang Prabang.
Best time to visit
Monsoon season is Mat round to October and the road system sometimes struggles to cope. When the rain stops more people arrive and continue to do so right until the rains return. The economic initiatives have meant that Bokeo is actually receiving plenty of tourists all year round. This Laos travel guidehopes to encourage even more to do so by booking Laos tour packages.
Things to see and do
The capital Houayxay is the home for several temples; Wat Chamkao Manilat, Wat Jom Khao Manilat, Wat Thadsuvanna Pkakham, Wat Khonekeo Xaiyaram and Wat Keophone Savanthanaram.
Generally however the attraction of adding Bokeo to a holiday in Laos itinerary is nature:
• The Bokeo Nature Reserve is protecting the black crested gibbon which until 1997 was thought to be extinct. The area is forested and mountainous and elephants, bears and wild water buffaloare present but the chances of seeingtigers are remote. There are viewing huts to view the gibbon and anything else that passes by such as monkey, mongoose, gaur and sambar deer. Birds includethe great barbet and grey-headed parakeet.
• Gibbon experience on the world highest tree houses.
• In contrast the Upper Lao Mekong Important Bird Areacontains black-bellied tern, great cormorant, lapwing, bush chat, martin and swan goose.
• The Mekong River has the largest catfish species in the world that can grow to 3 metres long.
Laos tour packages include accommodation while independent travellers can look at a few hotels and resorts as well as a number of guesthouses.