A peaceful little town consisting primarily of wooden houses and bamboo shacks along the Mekong, Xieng Kok makes for a good spot for an overnight stay on your way through to the rest of northern Laos.
It's a border checkpoint for a ferry boat to and from Burma (not open for foreigners) and cargo boats up and down the Mekong, with a constant flow of activity ebbing around the boat landing. Huge trucks come to load and unload their merchandise, making for plenty of entertainment, particularly when they need to be winched up from the river banks where they get stuck in the mud. A crowd generally gathers to watch and direct the action.
There's not a lot to do in Xieng Kok once you've wandered around town, chatted with the locals and given your advice on the trucks being hauled out of the sludge. But the town is scenically set on the banks of the Mekong, with a view over to Burma, and has electricity 24 hours per day nowadays.
The most spectacular parts of a visit to Xieng Kok are the journeys to and from here. The trip on the Mekong to Ban Mom, Ton Pheung and Huay Xai is very beautiful as is the road trip via Muang Long to Muang Sing.
While speedboats have run this route in the past, in more recent times speedboat drivers are reluctant to carry passengers as there have been a spate of attacks by armed gangs on the Burmese side of the river, and when we last visited in mid 2012, no speedboats were operating on this route at all.
It is not possible for foreigners to cross into China or Burma from Xieng Kok. Additionally, make sure the slow boat you take will drop you off at Ban Mom and not on the Thai or Burmese side of the river. There is a small guesthouse in Ban Mom should you get stuck there for the night.
The road passes small rivers, rice fields, cliffs and a number of small Akha villages with satellite dishes out the front. The Akha people are in the majority in the region; their distinctive black outfits are topped by headdresses decorated with silver coins and medallions.
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Text and/or map last updated on 30th September, 2012.
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