The Rural Beauty of Isaan’s Khong Chiam
Khong Chiam is a small, rural district town situated on the Mun River where it joins the Mekong in Ubon Ratchathani Province – the easternmost part of Thailand. It’s a particularly popular destination with Thai holidaymakers, who visit mainly to observe the fascinating natural change in the colors of the water at the confluence where of two rivers meet.
Khong Chiam District offers some spectacular views looking across the Mekong River into Laos’ Salavan and Champasak provinces, a wild, isolated region of the Mekong valley surrounded by mountains, cliffs with ancient cave paintings, and tropical Dipterocarp lowland rainforests.
The town boasts a small riverside promenade with a few small restaurants offering excellent views, food, ice cold drinks and boat trips, which are a great way to explore the countryside along both rivers – especially just before sunset.
There are several small hotels and guesthouses in Khong Chiam, one of which is Once Upon A Time Home Stay that offers courses in weaving and even features a natural indigo dye workshop. It’s also a pleasant place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, while watching the slow pace of rural life. If you are feeling more energetic, the guesthouse even has bicycles for rent.
Another attraction is Wat Tham Kuha Sawan, a nearby temple built in 1978, founded by the late forest monk, Luang Pho Khum Kaning, who discovered a small cave in the hillside suitable for meditation and decided to build a temple on the spot. The cave now contains several Buddha images and has a spectacular view overlooking Khong Chiam town and the Mekong River. The body of its founder is also on display in the cave on a gold-leaf covered alter.
Only a short drive out of town is Kaeng Tana National Park with its so-called ‘hanging bridge’, and the more interesting Pha Taem National Park, which is spread across a rocky plateau rising from the west, covered in Dipterocarp lowland rainforest and ending in cliffs dropping down into the Mekong valley. Pha Taem National Park is particularly famous for its strange mushroom-shaped rock formations, nature hikes, fantastic Mekong cliff views and ancient 3,000-year-old rock paintings.
Despite its obvious attractions for nature seekers, Khong Chiam is still well off the tourist trail for most western visitors, making it a uniquely alternative choice for both FITs and small groups looking for real, authentic adventures in the Isaan region of Thailand.
Khong Chiam is only an hour’s drive from Ubon Ratchathani and can be easily reached by bus or train. From Khong Chiam travellers can return to Ubon, continue on to Savannakhet, or cross into Laos – only a 45 min drive away!
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