Asia Thailand

Chiang Khan – The New Hipster Hangout of Thailand

CHIANG KHAN – Nested 1 hour away from the airport of Loei is the rustic gem of Chiang Khan. You might be wondering, where is Chiang Khan, you must be talking about Chiang Mai?

Life has no limit - Chiang Khan Thailand. Mekong River in the background and Laos across it!
Life has no limit –  in Chiang Khan Thailand. The Mekong River in the background and Laos right across it!

Nope, you heard me right – Chiang KHAN, spelled with a ‘K’. This little district part of the Loei province in Thailand is almost untouched by foreign tourists, with majority of the visitors coming from local Thais from surrounding cities in Thailand. It is the coldest part of Thailand during winter, and can get as cold a -6 degrees, hence Thais love to flock here to enjoy the cold.

Mekong River separating us from Laos
Mekong River separating us from Laos

How to get to Chiang Khan

Fly from Bangkok to Chiang Khan

We scooted over to Chiang Khan via local budget airline Nok Air, an adorable little propeller plane with their airline symbol – a bird’s beak. Flights to this destination is very affordable from Bangkok, and even with a last minute over the counter purchase, I paid around SGD$95 for a 1-way ticket.

Bus/ Coach from Bangkok to Chiang Khan

Alternatively, one can also catch a 2-way coach down 8 hours from Bangkok at 700baht.

So what’s unique about this hipster hangout destination that makes it any different from the other parts of Thailand like Bangkok/ Krabi/ Chiang Mai etc

6 Reasons why Chiang Khan is worth your time

1. Architecture – A Pretty Little Wooden Town

Wooden Houses of Chiang Khan
Rows of Wooden Houses of Chiang Khan

Colonized by French

One very iconic aspect about Chiang Khan is that – almost every single house here is made out of purely wood, in particular teak wood which is in ample supply here. Chiang Khan use to be a french colony, hence some of the houses here still have some french influence. But the general style is that they are all made of wood – rows and rows of wooden houses line the streets, no matter if it is an old resident house, a café, a shophouse or a hotel, there is a distinct consistent style of every single house built here. And other than 2 hotels I saw, everything else in this little town is only at maximum of 2 storeys high. No high rise 5 star hotels or malls spotted here.

Looking for suggestions on best colonial style hotels to stay in Chiang Khan?

Along the Mekong River

In some sense, the main walking street ( from Soi 1 – 25 to be exact) even feels like a movie set, with neat little wooden houses parallel to the beautiful Mekong River flowing by the side. The stunning river that hold the record of being the 10th or 12th longest river in the world. I will share more later.

Where to stay in Chiang Khan

(For those looking for accommodation, we stayed at the lovely wooden Sri Chiang Khan Hotel )

2. Along The Mekong River

Stunning Mekong River seperating Thailand and Laos
Stunning Mekong River separating Thailand and Laos

Holding the record of the one of the world’s top 15th longest rivers, this freshwater river cuts through from China to Southeast Asia like Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and more.

Making Pa Sad Loi Kroh & releasing on our river cruise

We are lucky to be able to take a lovely long boat river cruise down The Mekong, and release our hand-made ‘Pa Sad Loi Kroh’ or also known as the ‘Banana Castle’ –  a good luck offering to wade off the bad and bring in the good!

Heading to our long tail boat for the river cruise down the Mekong River
Heading to our long tail boat for the river cruise down the Mekong River, right hand holding my ‘Banana Castle’ which will be released into the mekong river
Wefie shot of all of us all comfy in the long tail boat along the mekong river
Wefie shot of all of us all comfy in the long tail boat along the mekong river
Letting go of our 'bad luck' into the Mekong River
Letting go of our hand-made banana castle or ‘bad luck’ into the Mekong River

Great view along the Mekong River at Sunset

The sunset over the horizon with the river in front is a truly stunning sight. Every other guest house has bicycles so it will be a shame not to spend half a day near late afternoon onwards (to avoid the heat) and check out the area on bikes (or foot) and take in the cool river breeze along the Mekong. Bring your hats and shades and water!

Sunset View along the Mekong River Chiang Khan Thailand Border
Sunset View along the Mekong River

3. Fantastic Night Market and Food

Night Market and Streets bustling with activity in Chiang Khan
Night Market and Streets bustling with activity, food stands and shops

No international tourists

The night market in Chiang Khan is really beautiful and hipster. Not your usual ridiculously crowded shopping districts of Bangkok and Phuket with schools of sweaty tourists, this cooling river side night walking street is comfortably busy, with lovely street food stalls selling a range of food quite different from what you can get from the usual touristy parts of Thailand.
In my opinion, a perfect destination for solo travellers or even families with young kids, as the place is very peaceful and safe.

Authentic Night Markets in Thailand

There are hippie and vintage shops, souvenir t-shirts, tons of street food stalls with such interesting variety, live music and more.

Miang Kum Sweet Thai Snack made up of a myriad of flavours from sweet to savoury to spicy. Some of the ingredients include peanut, ginger, onion, coconut, brown sugar wrapped in a leaf. Utterly yums
One of the popular sweet snacks of Thailand – Glutionous rice with coconut. My favourite was the Miang Kum Sweet Thai Snack made up of a myriad of flavours from sweet to savoury to spicy. Some of the ingredients include peanut, ginger, onion, coconut, brown sugar wrapped in a leaf. Utterly yums

Resturants and places to eat in Chiang Khan

Some suggestions for good thai dinner restaurants in Chiang Khan would be:

  • Nucha Restaurant
  • Kang Kood Koon along the main street.

Discover the full range of Chiang Khan street food snacks here

There are so much yummy food and snacks here in Chiang Khan, from Miang Khum which is a great treat and has a full range of sensations like sweet to savoury to spicy. The other not so touristy place in Thailand that I recall had really authentic street food too is in Trat province.

 

4. Amazing Cycling Route to immerse in culture and sights

Cycling around Chiang Khan to visit the culutral checkpoints
Cycling around Chiang Khan to visit the culutral checkpoints

Bicycles as a means of transport is very popular in Chiang Khan. You can rent a bicycle and cycle along the Mekong River or the main street with the stretch of wooden houses lining the sides. We cycled past temples, dropped by the old school cinema house, visit the cotton factory where they make quilts from scratch during winter period, play some instruments at the music school or even drop by to visit the professional decorative paper cutting uncle who has been in this line for many years. Everything about Chiang Khan is still very rare and authentic, so you will get some really cultural and soulful sharing and interactions with these villagers.

Cycling around with the lovey hats provided by Thailand Eco and Adventure Association
Cycling around with the lovey hats provided by Thailand Eco and Adventure Association (TEATA). Keeps us nice and shaded in the sweltering heat.
Local Fresh Fruit and Vegetable herbs sold in a thai wet market
Local Fresh Fruit and Vegetable herbs sold at a Thai morning wet market. We were suppose to buy some food here for our cooking class but we didn’t in the end.

For something even more unique, sign up for a cooking class to cook authentic Chiang Khan inspired thai food – like the Banana flowers Salad with Prawn and vermicelli (Issan style) or the traditional sweet dessert made out of yam, pumpkin and coconut milk.

Chiang Khan music school – really?

Trying out traditional music instruments at the Chiang Khan music school
Trying out traditional music instruments at the Chiang Khan music school

Immersing in the wind instruments here at Chiang Khan music school – Ajarn Sompote music school. It was a lovely auditory experience and before long, we had to be pulled out of the Chiang Khan music school to be on our way on our bikes to the next pitstop again.

 

5. Visit the Black Thai Tribe Tai Dam

Visiting the Black Thai Tribe Tai Dam in Chiang Khan
Visiting the Black Thai Tribe Tai Dam in Chiang Khan

A last minute addition on our way back to the Loei airport, we stop over and got to interact with the lovely people from the Black Thai Tribe Tai Dam , dancing, dressing up in their traditional costume and enjoying the stunning view of the rice paddy fields.

Beautiful Chiang Khan and its padi fields, shot at the Black Thai Tribe Tai Dam
Striking a yoga pose in beautiful Chiang Khan and its padi fields, shot at the Black Thai Tribe Tai Dam

6. Thailand Eco Tourism

Not yet bursting out of its seams with tourists, this little destination plays its part to really be a self-sustaining and environmentally conscious destination which reduces its carbon footprint. Hardly can you find any Styrofoam boxes used here, and there isn’t massive amounts of trash generated every day. The residents really protect the natural beauty of the place and try not to destroy it. Really unexpected for a place to be big on eco tourism.

Stretches of rice padi fields - Thailand Eco Tourism
Stretches of rice padi fields – Thailand Eco Tourism efforts

In conclusion, apart from the usual popular destinations like Bangkok, Krabi, Chiang Mai and Phuket, the only word I can describe this gem of Thailand is – Rustic. A truly beautiful little place where culture meets tranquility meets the Mekong.

Come visit Chiang Khan before the rest of the world catches up with it.

Wind in my air, smile on my face in Chiang Khan -Thailand Eco Sustainable Tourism
Wind in my air, smile on my face in Chiang Khan along the Mekong River
Sunrays on the plane leaving Chiang Khan
Sunrays on the plane leaving Chiang Khan

( This trip was made possible by Thailand Eco and Adventure Tourism Association ( TEATA) and Thailand Tourism Board )

EXTRA TIP: Explore traditional house designed
guesthouse options in Chiang Khan

Chiang Khna hispter hangout of Thailand

To read more about other destinations in Thailand

Krabi – Rock Raw Rustic

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Karen
    October 11, 2018 at 12:05 am

    Hi Lydia, just happened to chance upon your website. Thanks for the tips, I am going to Chiang Khan in two months:)

    • Reply
      Lydia Yang
      October 11, 2018 at 2:33 am

      Awesome, you will love the place Karen. Have a good time!

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