Chiang Khong (เชียงของ) is a fast-growing town in Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand. It is mainly visited as a stop-off point en-route to Lao, and is the Thai counterpart to the Lao border town of Huay Xai, just across the Mekong.
In mid-December 2013 a new bridge (the fourth Thai-Lao friendship bridge) was opened across the Mekong linking Chiang Khong to Huay Xai (aka Ban Houayxay) in the Lao province of Bokeo, replacing the previous ferry crossing.
Following the opening of this bridge a new bus route has started running from Chiang Rai through Chiang Khong to Bokeo. Chiang Khong to Bo Keo via the bridge takes around four hours and costs 130 Baht/7500 kip. The highway (and buses) continues to Luang Namtha and to the Chinese border at the Boten-Mohan checkpoint.
Each month more and more cafe's,bars and restaurants are opening. They are all within walking distsnce of each other, in the village center.
The village was more recently made famous by British cyclist Alan Bate, who broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth by bicycle in 2010. In the village he has opened the "The Hub pub",the free to enter,"Hub bicycle museum",and the "Funky Box Hostel". All situated in Soi 2.
The interesting thing to note about Chiang Khong is ethnic diversity of the local Laotian, Thai and Hill tribes, which results in three separate calenders and a variety of festivals held throughout the year.
The best time to visit is from October through to the Thai New year festival of Song Kran in April.
Most reviews are now totally out of date, so come and spend a day or two in Chiang Khong and be suprised!
From Huay Xai in Laos by a short ferry trip (10,000 Kip) across the Mekong (6am to 6pm). UPDATE as of Jan 2014: the boat crossing is no longer open to foreigners. The only crossing is at the new border/bridge 10 KM south of town. From Huay Xai town or bus station a songthaw/minibus to the border is 10,000/15,000 kip. Once you pass Laos Immigration you can take a shuttle bus the 2KM to Thai immigration for 25 Baht. From Laos immigration a tuk tuk to Chiang Kong is 50 Baht with min 4 people, more for less than 4 people.
From Chiang Mai by minibus for 250 baht, by green bus (departure 8.30am, 1pm and 5pm) for about 200 baht or by public bus is 150-270 bath. More buses go to Chiang Rai for 94-263 baht (3-4h) where it is easy to take a bus to Chiang Khong.
From Chiang Rai local buses go regularly (mostly every half hour) from 5.00 AM to 16.00 PM. (Same in reverse direction - Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai local buses leave from 5.00 AM to 16.00 PM). The trip takes 2-3 hours and cost 65 baht.
By bus from other major cities in Northern Thailand and Isaan. Daytime and overnight buses run directly from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit) to Chiang Khong every day. There are also 5 overnight buses from Moh Chit which leave at 19.00 pm and arrive at Chiang Khong the next morning at 8.00 am, and one daytime bus which leaves Moh Chit at 7.00 am and arrives in Chiang Khong at 20.00 pm.
The riverfront area can be seen on foot but it's worth getting a tuk-tuk or taxi for the trip out to the bus station. Small ferries cross the river every few minutes for about 40 baht (10,000 kip). The border crossing closes at 18:00.
If you want to look around Chiang Khong the best way is rent a bike or motorbike to visit local villages and the banks of the Mekong.Bicyles can be rented from the Hub Pub for 100 baht per day. Motorbikes (manual & automatic) can be rented for 200 baht a day (which also includes a basic map) from the Baan Fai Guesthouse.
Chiang Khong is often passed through by hordes of tour buses from Chiang Mai on the way to Laos but seldom visited and definitely overlooked. Like many border towns it is bustling with trade yet is tourist friendly without being shamelessly commercial. The pace of life is easy going for the most part (curiously, unlike other parts of the country the tuk-tuk drivers don't hassle you) and although it could be said that there is little to do in the town itself but if you are willing to rent a bike or car and travel approximately 60 km you can visit the Opium Museum in the Golden Triangle and the various towns, temples and Hill Tribe villages along the way.
Chiang Khong Fishery Station. The Chiang Khong Fishery Station is able to inseminate and breed this largest fresh-water fish. Fingerlings bred here have been released in several rivers.edit
Chinese Nationalist Soldier cemetery, (just outside Chiang Khong on the way to the Golden Triangle). edit
The Hub Bicycle Museum, Tedsaban Soi 2 (~1km south of the border crossing along the main road take Soi 2 away from the Mekong). Alan Bate,Guinness World Record holder for the fastest circumnavigation of the earth by bicycle, has interesting collection of different bicycles and related things. Coordinates: N 20° 16.044 E 100° 24.262Entry free. (20.267401,100.404364)edit
Visit the famed Michael 'Mr Jackey' Jacklood cover artist at his restaurant in town to hear a selection of fruity glam-rock cover songs
The small port itself is bustling and you can watch the locals load their sampans with goods of all kind to be ferried to/from Laos.
Nam Chang Dam. A nice (have) day bicycle tour to the dam and the lake for fishing and swimming. The trip is about 7 km one way, goes up and down but with out serious slopes. Take the road south of the 7-Eleven/Bus Stop away from the Mekong. After about 100m (N20° 15.419 E100° 24.294) go left and follow the road around a small hill and then towards the bigger hill.(20.22825454,100.369741)edit
H'mong & Lahu Village, (Take Soi 2, turn right and take the next left, follow ~10km). in the small town of Gyu Gaan. You can visit individually via motorcycle/car or contact 'Asian Oasis' for stays at the Lanjia Lodge inside the village and can arrange tours. The recommended time to visit is after 2pm when the villagers return from the fields.edit
Golden Triangle. Visit the Golden Triangle by motorbike - 1 day trip (60 km). Be aware that this is a lengthy trip to make by a small bike and it advisable to depart no later than 9am to be back before it gets dark at around 5:30pm.edit
Also of note are the Dragonboat competitions between the Laotians & Thais during the months of October/November & March/April to celebrate the end of the three month Buddhist lent and the Thai new year. If you're staying close to the riverside during the preceding months you can hear the teams vigorously practising along the Mekhong river in the early morning.
The H'mong also have a variety of Pagan festivals and (infrequently) hold bull fights on the weekends, which although brutal sounding the fights themselves are more of a display of strength (imagine a sumo wrestling match) and seldom last more than 15 seconds. Expect to see and hear vigorous gambling!
Swim in the Mekong, (Thake the soi south of the Kasikorn Bank to the Mekong). There is a small sand beach where it is save to swim. But don't go too far out.(20.262071,100.408629)edit
Learn Thai cooking at BaanRimtaling
Thai sauna at BaanRimtaling
Thailand Visa Run: It is possible to do a visa run to extend a 15 day Thailand visa for free. Get your exit stamp at the departure office and then go directly to the arrival office across the road to get a new entry stamp.
There are several ATMs in the town - Kasikorn Bank, GSB, Siam Commercial Bank, Krung Thai Bank and a new machine in front of the 7/11 at the bus station. All banks are closed on Saturday and Sunday but you should be able to use the ATMs. If you are heading to Laos get your money here because in Houay C
Xai the maximum withdrawal per transaction is 700,000kip and exchange rates from baht to kip are quite ok.
Laos currency (kip) can only be officially exchanged inside Laos. Thai banks will not exchange Laos currency. Chiang Khong ATM will not disburse kip. Chiang Khong moneychangers will exchange for a fee. The Laos bank in Huay Xai and the ATM there will disburse kip. Thai baht and US dollars are readily accepted in Laos. At good rates.
There is a a busy daily market and a Wednesday and Friday market
Visit a small market at Baan Hat Krai village to see catfish for sale and some produce from the jungle, for example mushrooms and river weeds from the Mekong.
A Youta sponsored eatery, (between Tedsaban Soi 21 and 23). A small and cheap vegetarian eatery in a family house. Coordinates: N20° 15.240 E100° 24.655(20.25400407,100.41091919)edit
Vegetarian Food. A simple eatery whit small buffet and noodle soup. Coordinates: N20° 16.223 E100° 24.213~30 baht. (20.27038,100.40355)edit
Rimnam Guesthouse and Restaurant, 166/1 moo 12. River view.edit
BaanRimtaling, ☎ 084-6155490. Offers Thai and Western food. Can cook Vegetarianish on request. Learning Thai cooking: How to make Curry, Pad Thai, Tom Yam. After cooking you have your own dinner. (See Sleep section for details)edit
(Restaurant above Boom Guesthouse on the other side of the street). Is run for 25 years by a very nice lady who does even some talking with the falangs. And good food too!
Nang Nuan (นางนวล), Ban Hat Khrai, ☎ 0 5379 1271. Thai foodedit
Bamboo Mexican. Great food done right, really friendly owners. Half way down main street on river side of the road.edit
The Hub Bar, Tedsaban Soi 2 (~1km south of the border crossing along the main road take Soi 2 away from the Mekong). Nice European style bar integrated into the Bicycle Museum.Has a happy hour from 12pm to 9pm and great prices. It is signed at the top of Soi 2. Facebook: thehubpub Coordinates: N 20° 16.044 E 100° 24.262(20.267401,100.404364)edit
Tea-Cha, a small organic tea & coffee house, is located approximately 3 km from the village (after Gyu Gaan/towards Chiang Saen) serves the most unbelievable chilled & hot beverages for 50-60 baht. The owner is very knowledgeable about the locally grown tea and the surrounding area and will also have the option of homestays in the latter part of 2012/early 2013. Sit back in the comfortable, open air premises and admire the amazing scenery whilst enjoying a hot/cold cuppa of Thailand's finest tea!
Accommodation is wide and varied and you can stay at numerous places within your budget.
Funky Box Hostel, Tesaban Soi 2 (~1km south of the border crossing along the main road take Soi 2 away from the Mekong). Adjacent to The Hub pub and from the same owner is the Hostel with a spacious 16 bed dorm and a common room, right in the village center and just 60 meters from the main road. Coordinates: N 20° 16.046 E 100° 24.276 Tel:0066827651839. Free wifi,funky bikes to hire for 100 baht per day. British cyclist, Alan Bate has great information on what to see and do by bicycle, in and around Chiang Khong. (Update: 2013-05)Hostel is 100 baht/person. (20.26744,100.4046)edit
Ban Fai Guesthouse (บ้านฝ้ายเกสต์เฮาส์), 108 Mu 8 Ban Wiang Kaew, Tambon Wiang, ☎ +66 5379 1394. 9 rooms. They are adding new air-conditioned rooms. There is only one room for 100 baht left and most rooms start at 150 baht with shared bathroom and fan. On the river and has a Doi Chang coffee shop with free wifi. The owner claims this was the first guesthouse in Chiang Khong some fifteen years ago. They also rent manual and automatic bikes for 200 baht a day and include a basic map of the surrounding area.100-350 baht. edit
BaanRimtaling (บ้านริมตลิ่ง), 99/4 Mu 3 Ban Sopsom Tambon Wiang (400m from bus stop towards Mekong. With the 7/11 in your back, cross the road an take the first street to your left. The street turns to the right at a Wat and after 200m is a sign on the left side (3 Sois up).), ☎ +66 846155490, . English spoken. Dorms, Single and Double Rooms, all with hot shower. Guesthouse overlooks Mekong River and the view from the restaurant veranda is stunning. Popular with Europeans. Although there is possibly better value for money and location inside the town the owners (an American named Don & his wife) are your best source of information in Chiang Khong and the surrounding area. Don is a very affable and knowledgeable man on both Thai culture and the local hill tribes and they can advise you on visas, politics, religion, customs and everything in between! Free pickup at bus stop (phone at bus stop may not work). 50B minivan to border in morning. Free internet and wifi. Coordinates: N 20° 15.328 E 100° 24.632 (Update: 2014-02)100-450 baht. (20.255459,100.410533)edit
Ban Rim Khong (บ้านริมโขง), 278/3 Mu 7 Ban Had Krai, Tambon Wiang, ☎ +66 8 1281 9966 (fax: +66 5379 1269). 4 rooms200-400 baht. edit
Ban Tammila (บ้านตำมิละ), 113 Mu 8 Tambon Wiang, ☎ 0 5379 1234. 9 rooms200-500 baht. edit
Many travelers are being told false information as they are approached on arriving by the local red bus.The village center is not two kilometers away,just about one actually.They are also being told that certain places are three to four kilometers away and sometimes that they are not nice places(even if they come with a personal recommendation from other travelers). Many tuk tuks are paid commission to take people to certain guesthouses.The best way is to take a breather,gather yourself and choose what is best for you. Enjoy yourself,don't be influenced, CK is a small place, with lots of choices for everyone.
There have been reports from travelers that there are wild/feral dogs which come out in this town late at night. There are dogs about, household dogs and temple dogs too. They may bark a lot but it is very rare indeed, that they ever bite anyone.
It seems very popular for guides on the pre booked slow boat trip to try encourage people to switch to the bus to Luang Prabang for the same price. They tell horror stories of floods, mosquito hordes, unexpected third nights spent on the slow boat and crooks in Pak Beng. Presumably this is designed so they can pocket the difference between the cheaper bus ticket and the slow boat you already paid for when you pre booked. On our trip (July 2011) around 80% of the group decided to take the bus instead. Many other groups on the slow boat commented that this was also the case in their groups. Don't Fall for it!!
Outside the village, you can follow the Mekong, through the mountains to the ancient town of Chiang Saen, the founding town of Lanna culture, Buddhism and the place where the Emerald Buddha was discovered. Heading South, you can also visit the little know Phu Chi Fa, missed by most foreign tourists.
The Slow Boat is advertised to leave at 10:30AM. But, always leaves around 11:00AM to 11:30AM. It is therefore possible to cross the border and catch the boat on the same day.
It's better to cross the border to go on the slow boat as early as possible. Immigration opens at 8:00AM. The Thai Immigration office is reasonably quick. The Laos Immigration office issuing visas will be an experience in Laos Bureaucracy. The whole process can exceed 2 hours in peak times (most of that occurring on the Laos side). Getting to the slow boat requires an exit stamp from Thailand Immigration (about 10 minutes), getting a bus to Laos immigration, getting a Laos visa (can exceed 90 minutes in peak times), and go upriver 10 km by tuk-tuk.
Laos visas are more economical if bought with US dollars instead of baht. As of Feb 2014, minimum cost is $30 USD ($31 on holidays) to enter Laos on a 30 day visa on arrival. Be sure to bring photos to avoid extra costs (can be obtained in Chiang Khong).
Note that since 12th December 2013, the border has been moved 10 km South of Chiang Khong (coordinates: https://maps.google.com/?q=20.215871,100.435832&hl=en&gl=us). From the crossing to the new border Tuk-Tuk ask 50 THB/pers, then after leaving Thailand you need to take a bus 25 THB/pers + 40 THB extra time (weekends), you will pay again 5 THB extra time at the Thai custom if you come late or during the weekend. On the Laos side they ask 1$ extra time charge evening and weekend, then you'll pay 100 THB to get a minivan from the Laos building to Houay Xai.
Prices for the two day slow boat to Luang Prabang vary. As of Feb 2014 tickets bought in Chiang Khong cost 1250 baht. They can be bought for 1000 baht at the boat pier. Thai baht, US dollar and Lao Kip are all accepted at least as far as Luang Prabang.
Recommendation: If you are crossing the border and getting the boat on the same day, buy a boat ticket (including transport to the pier) in Chiang Khong. You will pay 150B more (Feb 2014) but will save a lot of hassle, particularly if you are running late from immigration trying to make the boat.
Songtaow Run up to Chiang Saen from the main road around the post office for 100 baht. Around 8 am is the best time to go but be warned that they often (when there are no locals) stop half way up at Hard Bai from where you will have to hire a full Songthaew for 500 baht. Alternatively, but with far less spectacular views, go firstly to Chiang Rai (65 baht) and then to Chiang Saen (37 baht).
At least one First Class / VIP bus per day goes to directly Bangkok. They depart at 3pm, take 12 hours and cost 688 baht. (Updated 2013-05). A ticket office is at N20° 15.294 E100° 24.426.
After 16pm no more big buses to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. But at the counter near bus station there is a woman offering minivans to Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai for 250 baht. She has cheated us: we paid 250 baht each and were told minivan will stop in Chiang Rai and then continue on to Chiang Mai, but instead it just terminated in the old bus station of Chiang Rai, and refused to go any further. After demanding to drive to Chiang Mai, minivan driver threatened me with knife. Demand a ticket with your destination marked clearly, if you use this minivan service.
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