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A Walk in the Past
Chiangkan is a town in Loei province that can be reached by bus after around 8-10 hours of travel. Located 580km from Bangkok, it is a former Laotian town — founded around 857 AD by Khun Khan, the son of Khun Khua of the kingdom of Lanxang. My family and I visited it recently for the first time, but definitely, it will not be our last.
We booked a room at The Husband and Wife guesthouse, a 90-year-old house. It is perfect for those who want to experience the past and the present, which is really what Chiangkan is all about. Owned by Jodok Bhongrabhebhuvanadh (Jeff), the hotel made our stay in Chiangkan more enjoyable.
Jeff is from Chiang Mai. But he traded and his home work – he was a supervisor in a big company for 15 years there — because he fell in love with Chiangkan. Jeff’s love for the place is mirrored in how he takes care of the hotel and his guests. Jeff welcomes guests at any time, personally assisting them to make them feel at home. His personal touch is evident even in the hotel design, which infuses Lanna and Isan styles using recyclable materials to retain that old hometown feel. This is a “green hotel,” as one can see in all the five rooms and the family room in the attic. Eco-friendly elements adorn the entire hotel, and even the shared bathrooms are “greenhouses.”
Jeff has also made sure that his hotel is very affordable. The room rates include breakfast coupons, which give guests the option to eat in any of the five affiliated restaurants. There are complimentary bottles of water for all guests; and unlimited water, coffee, tea, and even Ovaltine for kids at the common room. Jeff has a coffee shop on the first floor, which people say has the best brew in town. There are free bicycles for guests to use to explore the town.
Jeff loves to talk about Chiangkian too. He says that French tourists first discovered Chiangkan, although today one sees mostly Thais, Japanese, and other Westerners. Especially during the peak seasons of October to February when these tourists ensure that the streets are humming with activities. But it’s still easy to imagine how Chiangkan used to be a place where ancient Siamese and Laotians once lived in harmony.
Wherever you go, you see a destination that refuses to let go of its glorious history. But, signs are that soon Chiangkan will also be rising to its tourism fortunes. The century-old wooden houses might become memories as even now many of them are already being converted into guesthouses.
If you want to see Chiangkan before that happens, make a visit now.