Chiang Khong

Chiang Khong

A popular border town

Chiang Khong isn’t so much a destination as a stopover and its role as a Lao border crossing and access point to the Luang Prabang boat services along the Mekong River is what’s plonked it so firmly on the tourist map. The small riverside town, located across the murky, swirling waters of the Mekong from the Lao town of Huay Xai, sees plenty of tourists arriving from Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai or Pai and then departing the following morning over Friendship Bridge Number 4 to catch the 11:00 slow boat to Pak Beng, or of course vice versa.

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Chiang Khong doesn’t offer a lot of obvious tourist draws or activities: no famous sights, no national museums, zero ancient ruins, prestigious temples or spectacular hilltop pagodas. And it draws a near complete blank when it comes to trekking, tubing, caving or rafting. It is though, a charming and picturesque little town and one of the best things to do in Chiang Khong is simply — nothing! We mean chill-out, stroll up and down the scenic Mekong promenade, kick back in some of its excellent range of riverside accommodation, check out its plentiful cafes, bars, coffee shops and restaurants, and if you get your timing right wander the lively markets. If you poke around a bit there are a few things to do and see outside the town such as walks, viewpoints, villages and minor waterfalls. You may not want to stay a week but we reckon it’s well worth a detour even if you’re not planning on joining the slow boat circus to Luang Prabang.

Exploring the countryside. : Mark Ord.
Exploring the countryside. Photo: Mark Ord

A good bet for a walk or cycle is a nearby Hmong village and waterfall, both named after the local stream and called Huay Tong. The country lane leading the five or so kilometres to the village is signposted in English off the road (as is the waterfall) that skirts Chiang Khong to the west. The lane is approximately level with the end of Soi 2. The village isn’t the most traditional but it’s friendly and you may see a few Hmong women dressed up to go to market. Towards the end of the village a track leads off to the right to the waterfall another three kilometres distant. The track is a bit rough, and steep, so you’d be better leaving your bicycle or motorbike at this point and doing the last stretch on foot. The small falls aren’t spectacular but it does make for a ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,100 words.)

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