Chiang Khong is kind of like that kid at school who doesn’t talk much but then you get to know them and find out they’re really witty and cool and easy to be with.
Chiang Khong is up there in northern Thailand on the Mekong. It’s where you pick up the slow boat to Luang Prabang (or land when you take the boat into Thailand from L.P., obviously), and it seems most people come to Chiang Khong only for that. Please don’t do that. I mean, take the slow boat, by all means, it’s awesome, but don’t come to Chiang Khong only for that. I’ve talked to so many people who spend only one night, to get the boat in the morning, and they miss out on so much.
Yes, it’s a quiet little town, but it grows on you fast. It’s just a super pleasant place to take a break from hectic travels, and it’s got pretty much everything you need to have lovely time, without the crowds, nonsense or cost of some other places that shall remain nameless.
CK has become my home in Thailand. I’ve spent a total of three months here and always look forward to going back. It’s an ideal place for me to settle in and write.
There’s lovely cafes, like the Vow, the Café de Lao (bit pricey but gorgeous) and the no-name smoothie shop (well it must have a name but I have no idea what it is) across the street from the Green Inn.
There’s fantastic Thai food – my favorites are a kickass vegetarian/vegan place, Kanjira, and a traditional Thai restaurant, Pad Thai Baan Yim. The Bamboo serves Mexican, and they also sell homemade whole-grain bread by the loaf or half-loaf.
There’s my favorite dorm in Asia, the Funky Box, which is attached to my favorite guest house/bar in Asia, the Hub Pub. Not that I frequent pubs, but if you catch me with a beer in my hand, ninety-nine-to-one I’m at the Hub. God, the Thai guy who runs it (not that God, silly!), is a fantastic DJ – come for the dorm, stay for the music.
And the Hub’s food is amazing – best veggie burger I’ve ever had – all homemade. The rec room has a pool table, games and a fun space with floor cushions. The vibe is welcoming and international. The Hub is located in a quiet neighborhood soi just a block from the main street.
The Hub has lovely rooms, and the Funky Box, across from the Hub, offers clean, comfy dorm beds with hot showers. You can use the bicycles for free. The wifi is fast and reliable.
The Hub also offers awesome jungle treks, in areas where it’s highly unlikely you’ll encounter other people, except possibly people from the hill tribes.
Chiang Khong is a good place to rent a scooter and ride north to the Golden Triangle or south to Phu Chi Fa.
Please give Chiang Khong a chance. Take a few days, get to know it – if you enjoy quieter places, I think you’ll like it.
Slow boat from Luang Prabang, then you’ll need to take a tuktuk to the Friendship Bridge, exit Lao immigration, take a bus (20 baht) across the bridge (you are not allowed to walk), enter Thai immigration, and then hop on a van into Chiang Khong. The van will take you direct to the Funky Box or wherever you want to stay.
The Hub can give you details and even sell you a ticket for the slow boat, as well as help with other onward travel from Chiang Khong, such as to Luang Namtha or points in Thailand.
Bus from Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. From Bangkok it’s an overnight bus that will cost around 600 or 900 baht depending on the class. From Chaing Mai there are direct buses to Chiang Khong but the cheapest way is to take the Green Bus to Chiang Rai and then jump on the local bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong (65 baht). It’s easy – when you get to Chiang Rai, get off the bus and look to the left of the ticket shed. You’ll see a sign for Chiang Khong and you’ll be assisted to get on the correct bus. You pay on the bus.
Lunch at Kanjira (vegan stir-fry with rice and soup): 30 baht
Supper at Baan Yim (veggies with cashews and rice): 90 baht
Dorm at the Funky Box: 100 baht
Twin room at the Funky Box: 350 baht
Smoothie at the place across from the Green Inn: 30-40 baht
Scooter rental for a day at Baan Fai Guest House: 200 baht
I didn’t receive any kind of compensation for this post – it’s all because I love Chiang Khong, and I want to support the places I’ve mentioned, and I really think people would enjoy spending some time in Chiang Khong. The Green Inn – I haven’t stayed there and don’t have any opinion about it; I only mention it as a landmark because it has a prominent sign.