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Most reviews are now totally out of date, so come and spend a day or two in Chiang Khong and be suprised!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 Bangkok Nok Air offers twice daily flight+minivan service from Bangkok to Chiang Khong v.v. by flying with Nok Air from Bangkok to Chiang Rai and transferred on a minivan to Chiang Khong (approx travel time: 3 hours). This can be booked directly from their website.
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.If you are travelling by bicycle please note it is not allowed to cycle over the friendship bridge. You also have to take a bus, transporting your bike on the bus costs 100B per bike. The price is fixed, but it might be possible that you only pay for the transport of your bicycle without having to pay extra for your own ticket- (so it will be 100 B instead of 125B per person + bicycle). The bicycle will be transported inside the bus. From Thai 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 also 4 buses per day from the close by new bus station to Huay Xai (see Get Out). 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 the red non AC local buses go regularly (mostly every half hour) from 5.00 AM to 15.45 PM. (Same in reverse direction. Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai leave hourly for direct route from 0500 to 1500 whereas Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai via Mae Phong leave hourly from 0430 to 1545. 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 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.
- 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 (less than 1 km north of the city center, look for the signs along the main road), ☎ +66827651839 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 4pm - late night. Alan Bate, Guinness World Record holder for the fastest circumnavigation of the earth by bicycle, has an interesting collection of different bicycles and related things. Adjacent to The Hub Pub and Funky Box Hostel, which are run by him, too. Coordinates: N20.267401, E100.404391. Entry 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.
Temples in Chiang Khong:
- Wat Sri don Chai
- Wat Sob som
- Wat Prakeaw
- Wat Luang
- Wat Hat Krai
- Wat Hou weing
- Wat Tung Duk
- Wat Tung Duk(Old temple only female nun)
Outside Town / Day trips
Doi Pha Tang, Phu Chi Fa
- Mountain Viewpoints Daytrip. Rent a motorbike, drive around 60 km to Doi Pha Tang, visit the famous gate of Siam, have breakfast on top of the mountain, drive another 20 km over great mountain road to Phu Chi Fa. Can easily be done in 8 hours. OSM has the locations listed. (20.22825454,100.369741) edit
- 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 road behind the street of distric offic, turn left at the gas station , 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
- H'mong Waterfall, (near to H'mong village). 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
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!
The Khamu village in the north of the Thai town only 7 Km. have a festival on August. Interesting Festival about the Spirit or Animism of Khmu people.
- Swim in the Mekong, (Thake the soi south of the Kasikorn Bank to the Mekong). There is a small sand beach where it is safe to swim. But don't go too far out. (20.262071,100.408629) edit
- Rent a motor bike follow the high way 1129 to Chiang Saen is the high light of the trip. distance 60 km. only to visit Golden Triangle. Can go and back in one day.
- Visiting a waterfall in Hmong village 10 km. on the west of town. But you need motor bike or bicycle.
- Relaxing time of the day is walking along Mekong river, see a local exercise at late afternoon. Running, jogging along Mekong is very nice time. Fantastic!
- Market tour at night if you still not go to bed early this market on the right hand of main street from 7/11 shop near the Bus stop. every night at 11 PM. to early morning market at 6 am. Hmong people and the people on mountain sale all product from their farm.
- Exploring fresh market opposite 7/11 shop try fruits on season and local food before you go to Laos. Price much cheaper than Laos. Coz all friuts from Chiang Khong send to Laos every day. Bon voyage!
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.
- 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. The view of Mekong on the terrace of restaurant is fanstatic. * Nang Nuan (นางนวล), Ban Hat Khrai, ☎ 0 5379 1271. Thai food edit edit
- Bamboo Mexican. Great food done right, really friendly owners. Half way down main street on river side of the road. edit
- The most famous coffee shop of the town is "The View" restaurant and a coffee shop with amazing view. It's locate on the north of the town, on high way no. 1129 same way to Chiang Saen only 10 km. from the down town.
- The Hub Pub, Tedsaban Soi 2 (less than 1 km north of the city center, look for the signs along the main road), ☎ +66827651839, . Nice European style bar integrated into the Bicycle Museum. Has a happy hour from 12pm to closing and good prices. Offers western style food, too. Facebook: TheHubPub. Coordinates: N20.267401, E100.404391 . 75-100 baht for drinks, flat 99 baht for food. (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!
- Rin Bar is a small bar on main street. a lot of European guests. Good food and good music. Good place to meet traveler. The owner Khun Rin is the friendly woman. Run by the local. Many years long run. Have a fun time in small Thai town.
Accommodation is wide and varied and you can stay at numerous places within your budget.
- Ruan-Thai Sophaphan, 83 Moo 8 Sai Klang Rd., Tambol Vieng, Aumpur Chiangkhong, Chiangrai57140, ☎ 66053791023 (email@example.com). Lovely huge wooden house, super friendly staff, great view over the Mekong. Mobile: 080-4970929, 081-0350061, Coordinates: N20.2673956, E100.4053223 150-300 Baht. edit
- Lanjia Lodge, 347 Kiewkan village, . edit
- Funky Box Hostel, Tesaban Soi 202 (less than 101 km north of the city center, look for the signs along the main road), ☎ +668274565109 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 10:30am; checkout: flexible. Adjacent to The Hub Pub and from the same owner is the Hostel with a spacious 1600 bed dorm with 1 fans, 3 ensuite bathrooms and hard mattresses. Right in the village center and just 1000 meters from the main road. Free WiFi (up to 100 Mbit), blankets and towels. Funky bikes to hire for 1,000 baht per day. British cyclist, Alan Bate has great information on what to see and do by bicycle, in and around Chiang Khong. Pick ups/drops to/from the border for 500 baht. Coordinates: N20.15267401, E1012404391. 20 baht per bed (3 couples can stay in a single bed).. (20.264401,100.403364) edit
- Ban Fai Guesthouse (บ้านฝ้าย เกสต์เฮาส์), 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 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 are your best source of information in Chiang Khong and the surrounding area. Free pickup at bus stop (phone at bus stop may not work). 50B minivan to border in morning. Free internet and wifi. Coordinates: 20.255429, 100.410596 (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 rooms 200-400 baht. edit
- Ban Tammila (บ้านตำมิละ), 113 Mu 8 Tambon Wiang, ☎ 0 5379 1234. 9 rooms 200-500 baht. edit
- Boom House. Nice style, but be advised to check visiters reviews. Everything in wood, including the terrace with view over the Mekong. Coordinates: N 20° 16.255 E 100° 24.357 from 250 baht. (20.270913,100.405182) edit
- Rimnam Guesthouse and Restaurant, 166/1 moo 12. 350-500 baht. edit
- Chiang Khong River View Hotel, 141 Moo 12, ☎ +66-53791375, . Hot showers, river views, some rooms with air-con. Nice owner and friendly staff 350-600 baht. edit
- Nam Khong Gueshouse, 408 Moo 1, ☎ +66-53655102. edit
- Chom Khong Guesthouse, ☎ +66-53655661. edit
- Day Waterfront Hotel, 789, Saiklang Rd., Soi 11, Ban Huawiang, T. Wiang (Along the north end of the river road look to the left and you'll see it on the hill across from 'Boom House'), . Large rooms, overlooks the river, wonderful pleasant hosts. Free fast Wifi (10mbit), free self-serve morning snacks and coffees, bikes available, hot shower, fans and air-con available, laundry service for 5 baht a piece. 500-1200. 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. Many tuk tuks are paid commission to take people to certain guesthouses.The best way is to take a breather,gather yourself and check in the google map. The Guest house is 35 places in town here, you can look the good place along Mekong river just only 500 meter from the Bus stop. The Mekong river on the east of town. Nice area to stay close to 7/11 shop and market where the Bus stop. Just Enjoy yourself, 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. This group of dogs is the owner don't want to take care of it. Must Take care yourself!
About the slow boat and room in Pak Beng. Book the seat in advance from Chiang Khong is the easy way to go to Luang Prabang. All connection between Houy Xai and Chiang Khong, cut out the problem Tuk Tuk in Houy Xai. No worry! just small money to pay extra more but make everything comfortable. Laotian people pickup you at the Laos immigration. You can do by yourself a little bit cheaper but to pay for off the problem in Laos.
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.
Timetable of the international bus from Chiang Khong new bus station to Huay Xai (Bokeo)
- Huay Xai. To get from Chiang Khong to Huay Xai there are basically two options. Take a tuk-tuk to border (the drivers ask 150 to 200 THB), shuttle bus from Thai immigration to Laos (20/25 THB), and from Lao immigration shared tuk-tuk to Huay Xai (100 THB or 25,000 kip). Second option is to take tuk-tuk to old bus station (30 THB), then take the local bus going to Chiang Rai and ask the driver to stop at the new bus station (10 THB), and from the new bus station take the international bus (which is coming from Chiang Rai) to Huay Xai bus terminal (30 THB). From there you still need to take tuk-tuk to your final destination in Huay Xai. The international bus to Huay Xai will leave from the Chiang Khong new bus station at 9:00AM, 12:00AM, 17:30PM and 18:30PM (As of May 2015. This is the information given from the bus station and the timetable is clearly written at the ticket counter. Still needs to be verified that the new bus station has infact started to operate).
- 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
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