Photo: Misty morning in Xieng Kok.


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A little frontier town consisting primarily of wooden houses and bamboo shacks along the Mekong, Xieng Kok is as out there as it gets for a foreign traveller in Laos. Across the river is Myanmar’s Shan State and though Xieng Kok feels nothing more than a sleepy outpost, the remote river border between Laos and Myanmar is a well-known drug trade route operated by armed groups.

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Banditry, Burmese drug lords, rebel insurgents and other people up to no good – no wonder many foreign offices warn to exercise caution in this specific area. In March 2006, independent traveller Ryan Chicovsky went missing in Xieng Kok in mysterious circumstances — his body was never found. Be sensible like the locals and stay off the river at night, and don’t venture upriver from Xieng Kok in search of the heart of darkness. For the town itself, it’s largely business as usual.

Slow travel. Photo taken in or around Xieng Kok, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Slow travel. Photo: Cindy Fan

Xieng Kok is a relatively important river port for cargo boats comings down from China and there’s a constant flow of cargo, people and livestock chugging between Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and China. The town has a border checkpoint and immigration stand and in 2015, following the completion of a new bridge some 14km north of town, this crossing was upgraded to a full international crossing — foreigners with valid visas are apparently able to enter Burma here. We received a traveller report in March 2017 saying that foreigners are not allowed to cross here, so please check beforehand (in Muang Sing or Luang Nam Tha) before making the trip out. The bridge is the first of its kind between the two countries and it links Xieng Kok, Luang Nam Tha Province to Kenglap in Shan State.

Strategically, this bridge creates a transport route from China to Burma and eventually Thailand as well; there are plans to build a road south from Xieng Kok to the Thai border at Huay Xai within two years. Locals across Luang Nam Tha province are hopeful that the bridge will bring ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 700 words.)

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