I’ve passed through my fair share of border towns over the years. Many are shabby, filthy encampments that exist on either side of a barren no man’s land where immigration officials with steely gazes extract their pound of flesh. Some, like Poipet at the border between Cambodia and Thailand, feel downright dangerous. As I gradually made my way toward the northeast corner of Thailand to cross over into Laos, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was prepared for the worst. My bus from Chiang Mai dropped me in Chiang Khong, Thailand, just across the river from Laos late in the afternoon, so I dumped my pack at the hostel and headed out to explore the town, since I would be leaving early the next morning.
As I followed the main street along the Mekong River I was initially surprised by the lack of trash on the streets; indeed Chiang Khong was the cleanest town I had ever visited in Thailand. Children waved and greeted me with “hello,” then giggled and hid behind their mothers, having exhausted the the only word they knew in English. I replied in Thai, asking their name or how old they were, gradually coaxing them back out into the open. In the center of town, vendors sprung up along either side of the street in an unbroken line that stretched as far as I could see. Not the normal trinket sellers, these vendors specialized in food. Plump, fresh fruits. Glistening piles of hot peppers in red, green, and orange. Gelatinous sweets coated in shredded coconut. Piles of wide, flat noodles – phat sie eww – coated in black bean sauce and piled with fresh veggies. An astounding display of culinary delights that stretched for a mouth-watering mile.
Can’t view the above slide show of Chiang Khong, Thailand? Click here.
It’s a good thing I had only a single night in Chiang Khong; if I had continued to eat the way I did that one night, I’d be tubby in no time. Early the next morning I checked out of Thailand and boarded the longtail to cross into Houey Xai, Laos, regretting that I hadn’t bought more goodies to carry with me. I’m tempted to return for the friendly folks and wonderful hostel that gazed over the Mekong, but most of all for the delectable food.