If you are entering Laos by land in the north intending to make your way to Luang Prabang by river, the busy little river port of Huay Xai will be your first glimpse of the country. In Bokeo Province at the heart of the Golden Triangle, Huay Xai has long been a busy trading and transit point. Mule caravans passed through here on their way from Yunnan Province in southern China to the northern Siamese capital of Chiang Mai laden with opium and tea. Although most people transit through here jumping directly on a Luang Prabang -- bound boat down the Mekong, Huay Xai is worth stopping in for a day or two. With the Mekong at your front and rugged hills at your back you are not far from ethnic minorities and some spectacular and unspoiled natural beauty. It was also recently discovered that Bokeo has one of the last remaining populations of black-cheeked gibbons in Laos. An innovative canopy forest camp, called the Gibbon Experience, has been developed to provide travelers with the opportunity to see and hear the black-cheeked gibbon. From Houay Xai you can make day trips to ethnic Lantaen villages where production of traditional saa paper and other crafts can be seen.