A hearty bowl of Khao Pun Nam Jaew is the perfect way to kickstart a day of exploring Chiang Khan. Photos courtesy of TAT’s Loei Office.
Nestled along the picturesque Mekong River in Loei Province, Chiang Khan was once a haven for young backpackers seeking cheap food and booze to conclude their Southeast Asia overland trip before heading home. The tranquil riverside town has since transformed into a beloved weekend retreat, adorned with chic cafes and restaurants. Yet despite the steady influx of visitors year-round, Chiang Khan has managed to preserve its laid-back charm, continuing to offer a unique and authentic Thai experience.
Today, Chiang Khan beckons travellers with its captivating blend of natural beauty and culinary treasures.
One of the town’s culinary highlights is Khao Pun Nam Jaew, a cherished breakfast dish that attracts the attention of both locals and visitors. This delightful concoction combines fresh rice vermicelli noodles – khao pun as they are known on the local market – with a clear soup infused with crushed bird’s eye chilli, known as nam jaew.
Traditionally, this dish features an assortment of pork offal including stomach, intestines, liver, lungs, and heart, accompanied by fresh vegetables and an array of condiments.
Preparing the hearty bowl starts by placing the thoroughly cleaned pork entrails, bones, and minced pork in a pot. Next, crush the galangal, lemongrass, and shallots and add them to the pot. Simmer until everything is fully cooked. Now, prepare the seasoning mixture by pounding together fresh chilli peppers and garlic. Add fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice to taste. This mixture will serve as a flavourful seasoning. Finally, serve the dish with a side of fresh vegetables, such as cucumber, bean sprouts, and long beans, for a delightful culinary experience.
However, those who prefer something milder can customise a “soft-core” version with pork meat instead of the offal. A condiment set, featuring fish sauce, vinegar, chilli flakes, and sugar, allows diners to fine-tune the flavours to their preference, ensuring a personalized and satisfying meal. Notably, this delectable breakfast comes at an affordable price, typically ranging from THB 40 to THB 50, making it an ideal way to kickstart your day of exploration in Chiang Khan.
Chiang Khan’s charm is rooted in its well-preserved heritage, with traditional wooden shophouses, charming gift shops, and cosy cafes lining its streets. Numerous Instagram-worthy spots await photographers wanting to capture the town’s timeless beauty. Its rich history is also evident in its architecture, which still graces the streets and adds to the overall ambience.
But what truly sets Chiang Khan apart is its serene atmosphere during the day. Unlike the bustling shopping frenzy that unfolds in the evenings, daylight hours offer a tranquil experience, perfect for leisurely strolls along the riverbank. The breathtaking views of the Mekong River and the distant Lao mountains continue to captivate visitors, providing a serene backdrop to your exploration.
While you’re in Chiang Khan, you can explore the riverside town through a scenic cruise along the great Mekong River, visit Buddhist temples, and wake up early for a sensational sunrise or to offer morning alms.
For those seeking culinary adventures beyond the pork offal soup, Chiang Khan’s morning market offers a cornucopia of delights, from Mekong roasted shrimp to grilled sticky rice and pan egg (khai kratha).
In conclusion, Chiang Khan seamlessly blends scenic beauty and culinary delights, making it a must-visit destination for travellers seeking an authentic Thai experience. Whether you’re savouring a bowl of khao pun nam jaew or taking in the town’s historic charm, Chiang Khan promises a unique and enchanting journey.
Planning Your Trip:
The best time to visit Chiang Khan is from October to February when the riverside town is blessed with a cool winter climate and refreshing Mekong breezes. For those flying in from Bangkok, AirAsia operates flights to Loei province, which is conveniently located just 80 kilometres north of Chiang Khan’s city centre.
By Thai PBS World Feature Desk