Stroll down Chai Khong Road
Chai Khong Road is the main street in Chiang Khan and it’s where you’ll more than likely spend most of your time. 3 km long and known as the Walking Street, it is actually closed to traffic only during weekends and holidays when the exaggerate numbers of tourists would make it impossible or dangerous for cars to drive through. Hundreds of shops, restaurants and guesthouses line both sides of the street rubbing shoulders with each other and occupying old traditional wooden buildings offering visitors endless opportunities for shopping and dining.
Strolling down the street transports you a few decades back in time and you’ll find yourself spending hours inside and outside the shops gazing at memorabilia of the last century; old posters, pictures, books and records, dial telephones, primitive black and white TVs and transistor radios, candy boxes and coca cola signs. If you’re old enough to remember how all these items have been once in use, a nostalgic feeling will overwhelm you while if you’re in your twenties it will be fun to see what was considered ‘technology’ 50 years ago. Be ready to bargain for everything and your collection of souvenirs to bring back home to friends and family will grow considerably.
Make morning offerings to monks
This is something you could do almost everywhere in Thailand but in Chiang Khan it is somewhat organized to make it easier for foreigners to be a part of this morning ritual. Even if it might look a bit artificial with ladies selling you flowers and your guesthouse supplying you a mattress to get down on your knees and sticky rice to offer, at least for the monks this is totally genuine since the food they get from these donations is all they’ll have to survive on until the next morning.
A few basic rules to follow are as follows:
- Take off your shoes to respect the fact that the monks are walking barefoot.
- Place your offer in the bowl and after that greet the monk putting your hands together with your thumbs touching your forehead.
- Make sure you don’t touch the monk at any time; this is an especially important rule to obey for women, but also men should follow it.
- Try to divide the food among all the coming monks.
- When in doubt, simply watch at what the Thai people do.
The bad news is that you have to wake up quite early to participate; the monks will walk down Chai Khong Road at around 6:00am.
Visit Ban Na Pa Nat village
Ban Na Pa Nat is a village located 20 km south of Chiang Khan inhabited by Tai Dam people, an ethnic minority originally coming from Vietnam, well known for their amazing weaving skills. Their name can be translated as ‘’people wearing black’’ and it comes from their habit of wearing black robes and scarves.
You can support the community purchasing some of their products; it will show them how much their job is appreciated and it will give them a reason to keep pursuing their conservative way of life, preventing their traditions from disappearing forever. If anybody is interested, authentic homestay opportunities are available which allow you to spend a night in the village and get to know a bit more of their culture. Travel agencies in Chiang Khan can arrange that for you.
Khaeng Khut Khu
Khaeng Khut Khu is a site located 3 km east of town on the Mekong River famous for colourful rocks emerging from water only during the dry season and offering spectacular photo shooting opportunities, especially at sunset. During the rest of the year, it’s still a popular destinations for the Thai visitors during weekends and holidays. Go there for a relaxing afternoon on a week day, wait for the sunset cruising the Mekong on a long tail boat and enjoy an early dinner in one of the many restaurants offering Isaan food with a river view.
To get there rent a bicycle in town (it’s an easy ten minutes ride) or take a tuk-tuk for THB50.