Ubon Ratchathani KhongJiam Mekong

Not long ago we made a weekend trip to Khong Jiam district of Ubon Ratchathani. It is the easternmost point of Thailand and Ubon Ratchathani. It is framed by the Mekong River, or Mae Nam Kong to the east and Mun River to the south.

Being there make me think I had entered a time machine and went back in time maybe 40 years. Life is lived at a slow pace. Traffic is sparse with the near total absence of the high-pitched whine of small cc motorcycles.

Children on bicycles ride around the streets playfully yelling at their friends and laughing a lot while their pet dogs ran along behind them.

I had some free time as my wife was busy fulfilling her duties and obligations at the English Camp. I was out and about doing what comes natural and I enjoy very much, exploring and experiencing.

After 15 minutes of walking I found a place to get some breakfast. It was the local market down on the main street. It seems to be the place everybody in town socializes in the mornings. Looking around it appeared I was the only farang in the vicinity.

A good breakfast in my stomach I headed off in the general direction of the Mekong River. It came into view 10 minutes later. I found myself beside the Thai Customs house, which was at the top of the steep riverbank fronting a market.

The slopes of the riverbank was dotted with people carrying goods up and down. From the long tail boats docked at the riverside goods and agricultural items were carried to customs and the market beyond. From the market goods were carried down to the boats emptied of their Laotian goods. I could only image that the exact scenario was being played out on the Laos side of the river as well.

This must be what free-trade is all about. People trading excess goods they have to others who need them and in turn getting goods they need in return. Maybe a good portion of our world has it wrong and this is how things should work.

I spotted a small bamboo kiosk with a sign advertising coffee that was calling me. With the approval of the vendor I took the hot coffee in a porcelain cup and sat on a bench overlooking the river. As I sat taking in the sights and sipping my coffee, a small dog came and sat in front of me. I looked around and didn’t see anyone who might be with him. He looked as though he could use a pet or two so I scratched behind his ears.

The dog sat there for a few minutes staring up and me and then squeezed between my legs and layed down under the bench I was sitting on. Maybe it was his place on the river. But he seemed happy enough to share with a curious farang.

Looking around at my surroundings, I saw people who looked comfortable and secure. It must be a good feeling having the mighty Mekong constantly in view. It made them know they are at home. I tried to experience that feeling as I turned my focus back to the river.

What came to my mind is that even though the Mekong appears to be constant it is constantly changing. This river full of history and ghosts is never the same from moment to moment. The muddy water I see now will be a ways down stream by the time I take another sip of coffee.

When I was sitting there the waters of the monsoon had long been gone. Out in the river islands were visible. A big difference during the rainy season when the waters would end a few meters from where I was sitting.

The waters of this river started their journey far to the north. There are many ways each drop of water found its way to be part of the mighty river for a short time. Some came from melting snow, some came from rains, some came from other lesser rivers connecting to the Mekong as part of a network of waterways.

The water flowed without thought, crossing borders without need for passport, visa or documents. No taxes were levied on any water that was part of the river. Some of the water would pass through Laos and Viet Nam, doing its part to resupply the South China Sea. Some water would be used for irrigation, some water would be drank by buffalo or dogs.

The cotton-ball looking clouds might have been formed from water that was previously part of this river. Even though the Mekong is a comforting and familiar sight, it is constantly changing. But for the residents I am sure it has forever been and forever will be the same.

I was mesmerized by the scene and my thoughts but I got an internal nudge to move on. As I got up from the bench I had occupied my new friend gazed at me with those sad puppy eyes and said not a word. I slowly meandered over and returned the coffee cup, when I came back to the bench on the pathway my K-9 friend had left. Maybe he just wanted to share the moment.

The brick path along the top of the bank runs from the customs house south to the Mun River. In sections it is lined with shops and restaurants. Down in the water are two floating restaurants and long tail boats you can hire for a ride on the river.

It had been a peaceful relaxing morning and a satisfying time. But now I had to head back to the guesthouse and meet my wife for lunch and to checkout in preparation for returning to Ubon Ratchathani.

I enjoyed my visit to Khong Jiam. It is a wonderful place for reflection and relaxation. Try it, you might just like it.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Good blog. I will definitely try it sometime.

    Steve Unsworth
    Brit, Kantaralak area

  2. Steve,

    You should definitely go for some good rest and relaxation. Wait until after the monsoon season.

  3. sounds good, I’ll b there mid nov, can i visit this place in 1 day, or is 2 more relaxing?
    regards phil.

  4. Phil,

    You can enjoy the town of Khong Jiam in a day. There are several sights in the vicinity that are enjoyable relaxing treks as well. November you will find the Mekong and Mun rivers swollen and quite a sight. If you enjoy after one night stay another.

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