Dec 06 2012
The small riverside town of Chiang Khong is primarily known as an entry or departure point for travellers to Laos but there’s a lot more to this charming north Thai town than an immigration checkpoint and a jetty. We reckon it’s well worth a detour even if you’re not planning on joining the slow boat circus to Luang Prabang.
Just what is there to do in Chiang Khong? Well, if the truth be known, this small, one-street town, lying on the banks of the Mekong in the far northeast of Chiang Rai province (directly opposite Huay Xai), offers practically nothing to do at all; pretty much no famous sites to be seen, zero museums and ancient monuments and zilch in the way of trekking opportunities. But that’s exactly why we are recommending it: Chiang Khong is just an awesome place to do nothing.
Okay, we’re exaggerating somewhat. What the town does have is a great vibe, friendly chilled out locals, lively little markets, a bunch of good places to eat, sleep and meet fellow travellers, and it’s also surrounded by stunning riverside and mountain scenery. A Kuomintang (remnants of the Chinese nationalist army fled here after defeat by Mao Tse Tung’s forces) cemetery lies on the hill above town, while you can enjoy a picturesque riverside promenade parallel to the town’s main street and check out half a dozen wats in town.
To visit the surrounding area and scenery you’ll need to hire a motorbike or bicycle in town, so ask at your guesthouse or check out the tour agents on the main street. If you don’t want to hire transport, then find a good viewpoint. Grab a locally grown coffee or a cold brew, wait until the evening pavement grills get going and… do nothing.
Chiang Khong also makes a great base for exploring the area and if you don’t have transport then local buses and songthaews, (pick-up buses), ply routes to surrounding towns such as Sob Ruak, Chiang Saen or even Chiang Kham. All will take you through lovely scenery. Local tour operators — a few are on the main street — or guesthouses usually also have some day tour options.
So don’t worry about which temple to visit or which hilltribe village you’re going to hike to; just nibble and sup your way up the main street or stroll along the riverside walk early morning or late afternoon.
And don’t forget to take your camera!
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