My exploration of Loei province started in the small mountain hamlet of Phu Ruea. From there, I proceeded to Chiang Khan, a sleepy town situated on the banks of the Mekong River. Chiang Khan has loads of ambiance with its many old wooden buildings, teak houses and Laotian-Thai style temples.
There is a special aura about this town – sort of reminds of old town Xingping in China - as it captures the essence of Thailand of days gone by. As evidenced by the popularity of Chiang Khan with Thai tourists – mostly from Bangkok - it is fast becoming “the hippest” tourist town in Northern Thailand.
Chiang Khan has often been compared to Pai, a small tourist mecca located in the mountains of Mae Hong Son Province. The difference is that Pai caters primarily to a young Western tourist crowd, many of whom are backpackers on the cheap; while Chiang Khan feels like ‘Thailand’, and for now, the tourists are predominantly Thai.
Walking along the main drag, which runs parallel to the Mekong River, I observed numerous guesthouses, chic boutiques and cafes - many of them housed in old wooden and teak buildings. In particular, there are numerous small coffee shops in the tourist zone. Thai people – especially young Thai people - just love to hang out at coffee ships.
Many camera toting tourists (and HiSo Thai girls) from Bangkok paraded down the streets, taking pictures of the old houses and shopping at one of the many cute gift shops. Fortunately, I did not see any Starbucks or KFC outlets. From what I could see, the bar scene has not yet contaminated Chiang Khan – so the town is fairly quiet at night.
There is an abundance of small guesthouses, hostels and homestays- many of them with just a handful of rooms. The room rates in general run from 250 baht – 900 baht or higher depending on the location of the hostel and the size of the rooms. The riverfront hostels command a higher price than those hostels that are 3-4 blocks away.
Unfortunately my visit to Chiang Khan coincided with one of the most popular holiday weekends of the year – the King’s Birthday, a national holiday. As a result, the town was booked solid and I was only able to get a small closet of a room in a guesthouse located about ¼ mile from the main drag, albeit for only one night. Due to the unavailability of rooms, I was forced to relocate to another town/village along the Mekong River for the remainder of my stay in Loei Province. Next - the Adventure continues in Pak Chom….
Chiang Khan is located about 50 kilometers north of the city of Loei. By songtaew, the trip takes about one hour.