Chiang Khong Present and Past
It’s 6:18 am, the sun has just risen, and I’m sitting here on my teak wood balcony watching the glassy Mekong River lazily flow by. Bells from a temple just gonged. Other sounds are crickets, birds, and motorboats of the night fishermen coming home with their catch. A cat is playing near a banana tree below. Some loud speaker of announcements that I don’t understand has just come on. Across the river is Laos. Last night the Lao karaoke was going on across the river, but they stopped around 11:30 and being across the river, it was never too loud anyway.
One of my favorite Thai experiences happened in Chaing Khong 11 1/2 years ago and although I was not expecting the same, I was looking forward to revisit this little border town for the kindness of the people. So far, Chiang Khong has not disappointed.
My view is so soothing and I have free wifi that I can type this from my balcony. When I was here before, I don’t even think there was an internet place in town yet.
Just because it was such a wonderful experience when I was here before, I wanted to see if I could find what I wrote back then. I have had the same e-mail address for over 12 years, so when I look back I can find stuff like this, written in April of 2000:
>CHIANG KHONG: I arrived in the border town of Chiang Khong with plans to go to Laos the next day. I got there and decided I liked it enough to stay for a few days. It’s on the Mekong river and across it is Laos. It is a nice little town, food was excellent and my Guesthouse was nice too.
>I rented a bicycle the next day and rode around town. I stopped to get a “fruit shake” and heard this drumming and singing coming from the house next door. I went to have a look and was beckoned in by the downward waving hand to join them. There was a treedecorated with money and other assorted necessities, like soap and detergent. I was given a glass of Thai whiskey and urged to dance. I gathered in broken Thai and English that it was a Buddhist celebration for the woman’s deceased parents.
>After a lot of celebrating we went to a gorgeous wat (temple) and prayed. The tree was offered to the monks there. It was a very special to be welcomed in that way.
>As I was riding home I saw a group of children following a baby elephant down to the river. I followed and watched the elephant get a bath. All the children were laughing. It was very cute. All in all it was a perfect Thai day.
>The next day I was trying to draw a picture based on the beautiful celebration from the day before and was really getting too hot to do anything. I was going back to my guesthouse to take a cold shower, when suddenly… splash! I was drenched with water. This was the beginning of Songkran festival.
>Songkran (Pi Mai in Laos) is the Buddhist new year celebrated roughly at the new moon in Aries, sometime in the middle of April. It is a time for cleansing and nowadays lots of water throwing. It also happens to coincide with the hottest time of the year in Laos and Thailand just before the rains start.
>So at my guesthouse with Thai people and other travelers, I grabbed a bucket and started throwing water myself. It was hilarious, I got completely soaked. It was quite a welcome relief from the intense heat.
Almost 12 years later Chiang Khong has changed a little, but nowhere near as much as Pai. There is still not a lot in town, but there are shops, and street markets, and some guesthouses. Some people speak a little English here because many tourists stop through here for a day to cross the border. That was my plan when I came in 2000, but then I ended up staying about 4 days because I enjoyed it here so much. I plan to stay for a few days this time too. It’s not a bad place to let time slow to the pace the river flows.