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Most reviews are now totally out of date, so come and spend a day or two in Chiang Khong and be suprised!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.
If you are coming by the main highway, heading for Laos, there is no need to go till the last stop. Ask to drop you at the crossroad to the Friendship Bridge 4 (5km before Chiang Khong), and then walk/hitchhike/tuk-tuk remaining 2km to the border. There are no buses from this point to the border crossing itself. Tuk-tuk drivers will try to charge especially high rates since they know you have little option. According to Thai border officials the border does not close until 22.00 PM.
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.
From Chiang Khong to Bangkok buses depart from two different locations, but all nearly at the same time - 3-4 pm, arriving Bangkok early morning next day. First location (Green Bus) is just opposite the fresh market and 7Eleven, where the buses to Chiang Rai start. They have only 1st class buses, cheapest at 688 baht. Second location is 999 bus company, about 500 m walking on the main road towards Laos/Chiang Rai, just before the bridge, on the right side of the road. They have 2nd class bus departing at 15:15, fare is 535. The bus conditions are almost the same with 1st class, just the ticket price would not include some junk food. Tickets sell out quickly, especially for 2nd class. Usually after buying ticket, you can drop your bag at the bus company. The Green Bus company also has few buses a day to Chiang Mai.
New bus station is being constructed 4km outside of the city, closer to the Lao border.
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.
Temples in Chiang Khong:
Outside Town / Day trips
Events and Festivals
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!
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.
Accommodation is wide and varied and you can stay at numerous places within your budget.
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.
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.