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.
14 thoughts on “Chiang Khong, Thailand – Border Town with Benefits”
Most of the border towns along the Thai – Lao border are filled with extremely friendly people who are always happy to see you. Thailand has some extremely nice people once you get out of the big money tourist areas.
What you’ve said is so true..I wanna try to live at 30 Km Chiang Khong
Can you report me about your experience of this area ?
I am 49 and want to live TH all my life……
Hi Stephanie: All I know about Chiang Khong was in the article you read – I was only there for a day and a half on my way to Laos, but the town had a lovely feel to it.
The great benefit of the chiang khong and Thailand. I am appreciate of this blog for the nice information you have contribute here.
ah…what you remind me now…. i have been there 3 years before… with a person played central role in my life… great holidays unforgettable feelings…. now hi has gone
Nick i miss you…
I have been to Chaing Khong before and actually quite liked it. It had a nice feel to the place.
Border towns tend to be all hsutle and bustle. This one seems to be nice and relaxed, though – but that’s Thailand, perhaps :). Beautiful pictures!
Barbara, your images are as delectable as your Chiang Khong smorgasboard! I am wowed by your experiences and record of them! Thanks for sharing your travels! Meg
Thank you Meg! The colors of the vegetables were absolutely eye-popping, as
you can see.
I love the fresh fruit and vegetables of South East Asia – exciting in its variety, colour, exoticness (if that is a word?!) and freshness. I love selecting the different fruits and just eating them there, wonderfully juicy and flavoursome and not kept for weeks or months before they sturggle into a supermarket.
Also I couldn’t agree more on your comments re border towns. This one must be the exception as most are not places that you want to be for a minute longer than you have to.
Hi Mark: I was so surprised by this town. It’s even a place I’d consider staying long term. The perfect sleepy place to finish my book.
Every time I travel I am astounded by the quality of food overseas (or across borders!). As a health enthusiast and an environmentalist, the poor quality of food in America (processed, mostly inorganic and unnatural, etc.) disgusts me. Traveling to places where emphasis on fresh, locally prepared and sustainably grown foods makes me wonder why we can’t make the transition to such a food system. Although it would take quite some effort for people to give up their addictions to processed foods and sugars, we would all be a little healthier and a little happier. So many other nations and cultures revolve around food, and America may appear that way too, but it is in such an unhealthy and unsustainable way!
Melanie: I wholeheartedly agree! I go back to the States each Christmas to visit my family and gain ten pounds over 4 weeks. Part of it is that I’m in Illinois in December and the awful weather keeps me house bound. But most of it is the quality of the food. As you say, processed and loaded with sugar and other chemicals. Then I return to Asia, eat like a pig, and lose weight. I’m convinced it has to do with eating foods that are bought and prepared fresh each day. Wish we could live closer to the earth like most Asians do.