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Fort Carnot is actually best viewed from across the river in Thailand. It is now a Lao Army barracks and is off-limits. In previous days the black hilltop walls were home to a detachment of French Foreign Legion. Wat Manilat is interesting because part of it is constructed in the teakwood Shan style that you will see in northern Thailand. There are jataka paintings (representations of the previous lives of Buddha) decorating the outside walls of the sim (ordination hall) paid for by former Lao refugees on their return from the west. The morning market or talat sao is very busy with traders from many different places given Huay Xai's nature as a riverine regional crossroads. There is a traditional herbal sauna and massage venue run by the Lao Red Cross (Saykong Rd.; tel. 084/211-264; daily 4-8:30pm). A sauna costs 10,000 kip while a 3-hour massage costs 30,000 kip.

The Gibbon Experience -- A good reason to linger in Huay Xai is as a base to enjoy the Gibbon Experience (Saykong Rd.; tel. 084/212-021; www.gibbonx.org). They have an office in Huay Xai just north of Immigration. The experience itself is situated deep in the Bokeo Nature Reserve, which consists of 123,000 hectares (303,810 acres) of mix-deciduous forest in a mountainous terrain ranging from 500 to 1,500m (1,640 -- 4,920 ft.) in elevation. This conservation project came into being after the discovery in 1997 that the indigenous black-cheeked gibbons were not extinct as previously thought. The Gibbon Experience involves two innovative programs centering on a network of canopy huts that provide a rare opportunity to see black-cheeked crested gibbons. It is situated far into Bokeo province, a 3-hour drive and 1-hour trek into the jungle. The project's aim is to conserve the vast nature reserve and raise funds to protect wildlife while also alleviating poverty among local people. The Gibbon Experience allows visitors to experience the rainforest high up at canopy level. With a complex system of zip-lines and treehouses visitors scan the forest, in search of a sighting of the elusive ape. The project has a total of four treehouses grandly stocked with food and the necessities of life. Trekkers choose how to spend their time, and there is no schedule. Food comes when you are hungry and the guides are always around and at your service. The Waterfall Gibbon Experience takes trekkers deeper into the reserve with 2 to 3 hours of hiking per day along the Nam Nga River.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.