Ban Pa-Ao village is famous for producing brass and bronze items using a unique lost-wax casting method involving long strands of wax. This is the only place in Thailand that still does it. You can watch workers creating bells, bowls and more at Soon Thorng Leuang Ban Pa-Ao on the far side of the village.
Khong Jiam sits on a picturesque peninsula at the confluence of the reddish Mekong and bluish Mun Rivers, known as Mae Nam Song Si (Two-Colour River). The multicoloured merger is usually visible from the shore, but it's best seen from a boat. When the rivers are high (June to October) the blending waters create small whirlpools, resembling boiling lava.
Pha Taem National Park
Up the Mekong from Khong Jiam is a long cliff named Pha Taem, the centrepiece of awesome but unheralded Pha Taem National Park. From the top you get a bird's-eye view across the river into Laos and down below a trail passes prehistoric rock paintings dating to at least 1000 BC.
Kaeng Tana National Park
Along the road to Khong Jiam you can cross the Pak Mun Dam to Kaeng Tana National Park. After circling thickly forested Don Tana (Tana Island), linked to the mainland by two long suspension bridges, the Mun River roils through the park's beautiful namesake rapids and passes below some photogenic cliffs.
Phu Chong Nayoi National Park
Sitting at the heart of the 'Emerald Triangle' (a meeting of the Thai, Lao and Cambodian borders) is the little-known Phu Chong Nayoi National Park, one of Thailand's wildest corners and healthiest forests. Resident fauna includes elephants, tigers, Malayan sun bears, barking deer, gibbons, black hornbills and endangered white-winged ducks, though you won't likely see them.
South of Khong Jiam, at the end of Rte 217, is the small border town of Chong Mek. The new bridges over the Mekong further north have reduced traffic on this route and stolen much of the bustle from the Chong Mek Market, which used to be a big hit with Thai tourists. If you get stuck here after hours, there are cheap guesthouses north of the market.