One of our
favorite places to visit in Thailand is Chiang Khong. Nestled
alongside the Mekong River on the border of Laos, this sleepy
town is a refreshing change of pace from bustling Chiang Mai.
Chiang Khong is a small quiet border town in the Chiang Rai
province of Northern Thailand with its own immigration office
and busy port.
We choose to
stay in the Ruanthai Sophaphun Lodge which gives us the sense of
a traditional Thai teak home. Rooms are 600 baht (currently $18.50 USD) for a double, with ensuite bath.
If you are looking to stay here, simply arrive in Chiang Khong and ask for 'so-POP-ahn' Lodge. Everyone knows
owner, built this home 4
decades ago. Each plank of teak wood was
collected piece by piece from the elders in the village. This
hardwood is known for its beauty and longevity and some of the
wood used in the Lodge is 100 years old or more. Quite
difficult to cut, Sophaphan hired laborers to saw the wood at 60
baht a day (about $2 USD), the going wage at that time.
piece of wood has been recycled from other homes and
locations, they were all different sizes. This caused this 4th
floor to be wider than the 3rd floor.
carries a legend with it as well. When Sophaphun was young, she
was quite poor. Having no money for a home, she utilized bamboo
mats to create a small room for herself. When she built this
Lodge, she purposefully chose to use a woven bamboo ceiling to
remind her of her past life as a young girl.
morning sunlight comes streaming in, the color of
the teak wood is stunning. The windows all open up for a view of
the Mekong River which has been flowing past for centuries.
Originating in the frigid Jifu Mountains
in Tibet, the Mekong River eventually flows into the Mekong
Delta, which empties into the South China Sea at Vietnam.
depicting Sophaphun's life are seen throughout. Thai
silk pillows make it tempting to sit and enjoy the many views
this rambling home offers. Lovingly decorated over
many years by Madame Sophaphan there are traditional artifacts, hill
tribe crafts, family memorabilia, and objects of historical and
social interest. As is true with most guest houses this is the
owner's home as well.
area is a pleasant place to hang out while drinking a smoothie
and catching up on correspondence.
roads are rated as some of the best motorcycle routes in the
world. Every time we have come to visit we meet serious
motorcycle riders who are going around the world on their road
bikes. These international bike riders make for interesting
chats at happy hour!
On this trip
we met a group of bicyclists touring Thailand, Laos and
Cambodia. What a great way to see the local countryside. Their
tour group filled this whole place!
is fully supplied. If you notify them,
the staff will prepare a fixed price menu for your dinner. Scrumptuous!
From these dining tables,
clearly visible 300 meters across the river is the township of Huay Xai
which is a legal point of entry for Laos. Anyone with a valid
visa for Laos may cross by ferry. Chiang Khong is an important
market town for local hill tribes and for trade with northern
Laos. Nearby are several villages inhabited by Mien and White
One can rest here
at these tables to read a book, do some computer
work, or enjoy chatting with other travelers. Meanwhile the
Mekong slowly drifts by.
stay accommodation is
quite large and offers 25 budget fan-cooled rooms
and includes a simple breakfast. It has a very
distinctive and unique Lanna style with many vantage points
around the building for photo opportunities.
Down on the
first floor a yoga instruction room is currently being built.
Why not plan a yoga retreat here?
simple, rustic and include an ensuite western bathroom.
has views from which to see the Mekong River. Large, spacious,
quiet, comfortable. No city noise here! No beeping, buzzing or
banging. No TV or radio, only the wind in the trees, and the
sounds of birds outside. True audio luxury.
Thailand and China via Chiang Khong is steady. Thai goods going
north include dried and processed food and beverages, cosmetics,
machinery, spare parts and agro industrial supplies
If reading a
captivating novel and watching the Mekong River float by
becomes too stressful, then why not book a Thai massage? Across the
road, on the same street as the Lodge is a Thai massage hut
best price in town! (100 baht per hour, about $3USD) Be sure to make a stop there to
therapeutically relieve stressed muscles. It's a great way to break up your busy
Pop, speaks excellent English. He can help you with your travel needs if you
would like to go on to Laos from the Lodge or take a bus to
the next town.
Madame Sophaphan herself! Business savvy, a remarkable cook, and
well connected in town. She is a real delight.
the Mekong offers timeless charm.
You might be
interested to know that the Mekong
River stretch passing through Chiang Khong is an important fishing
ground for the Plaa Beuk or giant Mekong catfish, probably the
largest fresh water fish in the world. It takes at least 6 and
possibly 12 years (no one really knows for sure) to reach full
size 2-3 meters in length and weighing up to 300 kg. Locals say
these fish swim all the way from where the
Mekong originates in northern China but that is unlikely. In Thailand and Laos its
meaty but mild tasting flesh is revered as a delicacy.
At the moment the greatest threat to the catfish’s survival is
the blasting of Mekong River rapids in China, which is robbing
the fish of important breeding grounds.
purchased and renovated by Sophaphun, the solid teak Ruan Thai
Old Fashioned House is situated on the main street. It is
one of the most stylish and photographed buildings in Chiang Khong. One does not get the river views from here, and the rooms
are a little less expensive, about 300-400 baht a night (about
$9 - $12 USD).
If you are
looking for a respite from your noisy, jammed-packed life,
taking a break here at the Lodge in Chiang Khong is certainly