Saturday, November 27, 2010

Old Town Chiang Khan

As presumed, we planned a winter trip up north. Keyword… winter… reality, perspire like pigs. End of November, should have been cold, but Buddha decided to turn the sauna on. And so we left Bangkok at 10pm in the night. Can’t recall the entire journey, but when I woke it was near 6, and up the mountains we went in the still cool air hoping it will last.

We were in Loei and joined the flock of local travelers for the sunrise. As we hike up the pathway, many of them were already strolling the opposite way, we missed the sunrise but nevertheless, the view was still breathtaking on Phu Ruea National Park. Misty, top of the peak I was as the sunrays contest the heavenly clouds to reach my lens. First stop of the day for many on their way to Chiang Khan.

Now Chiang Khan had been the talk of many lately. Her old rustic charms attracting many of the city folks, luring them with her backwards appeal into a world where the clock ticks slower. However, the dwellers of this village just ain’t too happy about it. They had been invaded, modernization had set in with the ever increasing loads of tourist. Even farangs had started to arrive in small numbers. The concrete buildings have started to sprout, over shadowing the original rows of aging wooden houses laid along the only street. Chang Khan will turn into another Pai soon as many had already reflected.

The monks walk their daily rounds just as the sun rise. Briskly, they collect alms from the local folks, strolling a slow pace taking in the clear morning air. In contrast to that, during the peak supposed to be cold period of November till January, things are very different. Monks get overfed like fishes. We tourist like to do everything that locals do just so as to do what we tourist are suppose to do. As a result, abnormal number of people lined up the streets and we dump loads of monk-feed into their small bowl. Never mind the cookies, sticky rice and what not had already piled up like mountain, tourist continued to squeeze whatever we can into any opening we chanced upon between the packs of nutrients. I myself was one of them and it was quite obvious the monks tried to walk as fast as he could pass all of us, refusing our offerings tactically. Some, I could tell was calculating how to walk past us beyond arms reach. We tourist had stressed the monks. There should be a Monk Overfeed Protection Act set up in Chang Khan someday.

Accommodation in Chang Khan is basic. Mainly, they are home stay. This is the second time I am at it and I am still amazed that all the elderly are wiling to sacrifice their night sleep for us. For a mere THB1500, they are willing to give up the bedroom and sleep all over the living room downstairs, scattered in a way like cats would do so in a large open area. There are not resorts on Chiang Khan as yet, but in time, there will be as popularity grows.

The old town is located next to the Mekong. So one could talk local to the locals and have a boat ride out on the river for THB1000. Sail next to Laos, see them kids play the water. Wave as we did as the citizens of Laos smiled and waved back. Cycling is the core activity there, for in Chang Khan is a long street where in the night it turns into a bustling market with restaurants, drinking joints and the so many peddlers. Colorful lights reflecting off old wooden charms, a kaleidoscope, it can be quite a picture.

A packed trip up north and back, sleep deprived we were back working the third day. 60% of the time spent in the van, stopping along the way for spots of unknown attractions. That’s the way we do it here, cheap.

Full photo sets available here under Old Town Chiang Khan Nov 2010.

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