Loei dishes out heritage and nature

May 20, 2015 by  
Filed under THAINESS

BANGKOK, 20 May 2015: There is a thin green line on the Michelin Thailand map that gives travellers a hint of what to expect on the winding riverside road between Chiang Khan and Nong Khai.

Green classifies outstanding road travel; a scenic route that should must be experienced. Better if it is travelled at a slow pace possibly on a cycle making stops at small guests houses to soak in this magnificent river experience for a couple or days or more.

The road covers a distance of around 180 km between in two provinces. Chiang Khan in Loei province is the spot where the Mekong River returns to define the border between Thailand and Laos. Nong Khai is a bustling provincial town on the banks of the Mekong River another 180 downstream where the first Thailand-Laos Friendship bridge was opened for road and rail traffic.

In between, a country lane follows the river course through villages, past waterfalls and affords those who travel slowly views and vistas they will cherish for a lifetime; a memorable road to roam indeed.

3.1     Loei is the first province in Northeast Thailand that the Mekong River flows through after the gigantic snaking volume of water leaves Thailand’s far north province of Chiang Rai and heads inland to Luang Prabang in Laos.

Loei is very lucky to be home to the quaint and rustic village of Chiang Khan that is now a favourite spot for travellers to the province.

Loei town is fine, but it is a typical northeast town bent on commercial prosperiy. It serves as a gateway to explore a variety of natural attractions that are a perfect fit for ecotourism.

If Loei town is the gateway for business and trade, Chiang Khan is the destination for tourism.

3.2The river flows past Chiang Khan and the streets that run parallel to the embankment are packed with wooden houses converted into boutique shops, restaurants and guesthouses. Someone stopped the clock in the mid 1950s and then stamped “do not disturb” on Chiang Khan’s street plan. Amazingly the message stuck and today, Chiang Khan is one of the few remaining examples of a typical Thai village, built of wood with the trappings of dusty, exposed electricity cables running through markets, under shop canopies and past shuttered windows.

Selfies, foodies and those who love time warp head for Chiang Khan to chill-out. They stroll through the walking street mainly to pose for photographs. There are as many tripods here adorned with Nikons and Canons as people. The predominant activity is attempting to catch the mood, shades and textures on digital devices.

3.3Chiang Khan is a small town easily explored on bike or on foot. Those interested in Buddhism and heritage can visit temples presenting Lanna and Lan Chang art. Many devout Buddhists visit the Lan Chang Buddha statue made of carved wood at Sri Khun Muang Temple.

Pon Chai Temple is worth a visit to experience the combination of Lan Chang and Rattanakosin art. The local culture of Chiang Khan has been preserved and local people wake up very early in the morning and stand in line to give alms to a procession of passing Buddhist monks. Similar to the giving of alms practice of Luang Prabang, the graceful parade of monks and the devotion of Buddhists typify the lifestyle of Chiang Khan.

So far the charm of Chiang Khan has survived its popularity, providing snapshots of a peaceful local lifestyle in contrast to the urban clutter of cities.

3.4But the touring cycles, parked outside of guesthouses, many of them burdened with saddlebags and panniers illustrate yet another trend. This is where a cycle tour takes on magical dimensions. A quiet country road beckons them that is probably one of the most beautiful roads a cyclist will ever encounter in Thailand.

The 180 km ride to Nong Khai, following the riverside road, can be cut into pleasurable portions of 60 to 50 km a day with overnight stops at homestays or guest houses most of them overlooking the river.

They serve up dinner breakfast, offer clean, and tidy rooms for less than THB1,000 a night. There are even more amazing bargains as low as THB500 a night if you intend to seek out your meals at the local markets and riverside road food stalls in nearby villages.

Loei province has been popular with domestic tourists for a decade and there is no better way to discover a country than to follow local wisdom. Local tourists head for Loei, November through to February, to experience the cool weather that is very similar to far north Thailand.

3.5There is plenty of evidence to show that Loei is actually one of the coolest spots in Thailand, especially in the hill country’s national parks that attract ecotourism. The province is blessed with undulating mountain ranges and is abundant with various kinds of flora that grown on mist-enshrouded hills.

The most majestic mountains are Phu Kradueng, Phu Luang and Phu Ruea.

Loei province has a strong culture and traditions in addition to beautiful geographical surroundings, such as the colorful Phi Ta Khon Festival in Dansai, some 60 km west of the provincial town. The village has a fascinating Phi Ta Khon museum that explains the festival and the significance of the costumes and cultural aspects that attracts foreign tourists who are interested in folklore.

There are many educational activities such as agriculture drives to villages that grown crops ranging from macadamia nuts, passion fruit and coffee. There are also vineyard and wine tasting tours.

3.6Several national parks are attracting ecotourism groups. Phu Kradueng is a great place for nature lovers to explore forest and hills. The route up to Phu Kradueng is a challenging way to test the strength of hikers since it is very steep, but the views at the summit are breathtaking especially in the early morning when mountains are shrouded in mist.

For foodies, Loei is well known for its variations of Som Tum (papaya salad), its spicy grilled chicken and a chili hot larb (minced meat with vegetables and spices).

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