Known as the Naga City (Nagas being the giant serpent guardians said to inhabit the Mekong River - see below) and famed for its lovely position on the Mekong, Nong Khai is a bustling Thai town and the gateway to Laos and Vientiane. It has many beautiful features which attract a considerable number of Thai and foreign visitors every year, including Sala Keaw Khu the almost surreal sculpture park; the enormously revered Luang Por Phra Sai Buddha Image which has a remarkable history; the truly extraordinary Phu Phra Bat Historical Park (though in Udon Province it is easily reached from Nong Khai); and the Thai-Lao Indochina Market called Tha Sadet Market which occupies many streets in the centre of town. A large part of the centre of town, including the river bank, has been made pedestrian-only. The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, opened in Apr 1994, was the first bridge across the lower Mekong, and only the second on the full course of the Mekong.
Nong Khai is an exemplar of Isaan culture, which dominates northeast Thailand and which has an identity distinct from the culture of the centre, north, and south of Thailand. Famed for its warmth, kindness and friendliness, the culture has evolved from its Thai and Lao roots. Today, the distinctive Isaan culture is a source of pride to those born into it. Most locals speak both Thai and the local dialect called Isaan, which is closely related to both the Thai and Lao languages. Many locals also speak a bit of English, some Vietnamese, and some Chinese.
Nong Khai played a central role in the Yunnanese (Chinese) Hor Rebellions of the 1880s. Later it was under French rule until 1932, and some examples of French architecture remain. During the Vietnam war, it became home to many Lao, Vietnamese, and Chinese immigrants who have added their own culture and entrepreneurial skills, to the great benefit of the town.
Nong Khai is filled with literally hundreds of images of the Naga, the Mekong giant serpent. Two huge five-headed Nagas adorn the main gate to the city. One lurks in the city's main fountain, most of the street lights are adorned with them, they appear as guardians to every temple and shrine, and a six-storey seven-headed Naga towers over the Sculpture Park as its principal guardian (see photo). At the end of October every year the Naga Fireballs appear in Phon Phisai and beyond and are mystical pink points of light which arise from the river after sunset on the full moon which is the last day of Buddhist Lent, Okk Paan Saa. These points of light, for which there is no adequate scientific explanation, are said to be the breath of the Naga welcoming the Lord Buddha back to the Earth.
The nearest airport (on the Thai side) is in Udon Thani, 56 km distant. There are minibuses that meet almost every flight landing at Udon. They will take you straight to Nong Khai. On landing at Udon Thani and entering the arrivals hall, there is a counter straight ahead of you where you can buy a minivan ticket. The price is 200 baht. The journey to Nong Khai takes about 1 hour.
Thai Airways operates flights between Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi) and Udon Thani. AirAsia and Nok Air operate a service between Bangkok (Don Mueang) and Udon Thani. Flight time from Bangkok is approximately one hour.
Nong Khai is the terminus of the northeastern railway line from Bangkok via Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. The trip takes 10-12 hours and a first class sleeper ticket from Bangkok to Nong Khai or vice versa is currently about 1,200 baht. A second class sleeper ticket (not bad for the price) is 748 baht. Sleepers often sell out at peak times so you may need to book in advance.
Shuttle services now operate onward from Nong Khai to Tha Nalaeng, Laos (near Vientiane) four times a day, consistent with the arrivals and departures of the Bangkok trains. You can buy tickets only at the Nong Khai station, and you need to pass through immigration as well. (If coming in on Train 69 from Bangkok, there's a 90 minute window to do this.) Once the formalities are done, the trip itself across the Friendship Bridge takes only 15 minutes. Visa on arrival is available on the Lao side.
There are departures to Udon Thani at least once per hour from the BKS station on Prajak Rd. The hour-long ride costs 20 baht in 3rd class (non-air-con). 40 baht in 2nd class (air-con).
- Nong Khai bus station. Mini buses leave from here to Udon Thani, 50 baht. 50 baht/day, 200/per week.
There are several departures daily from Bangkok (~9 hours), Khon Kaen (110 baht, class 2, with a stop at Udon Thani) and across the border direct from Vientiane (55 baht, 17,000 kip, two hours) via the Friendship Bridge.
A 1st class bus service connects Nong Khai directly with Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK).
The only mode of public transport in the city is tuk-tuk. Although the price has gone up recently due to the increased cost of fuel, they remain inexpensive at 20-30 baht/person to anywhere around the city centre.
Some tuk-tuk drivers will ask for much more than 20-30 baht/person, but you can generally bargain with them to reach a lower price. When bargaining, smile and be patient and polite (or just walk down the street until you see a roaming tuk-tuk, which will probably be cheaper. This tactic—walking a short distance—is sometimes the only way to get a reasonable price when arriving at the Friendship Bridge from Laos).
A trip to or from the Friendship Bridge can cost over 70 baht for tourists if only one passenger is on board, although the normal price is 40-50 baht.
A good way to discover Nong Khai and its surroundings is by motorbike or bicycle. Some guest houses and several rental places around town offer bicycles (50 baht/day) and motorbikes (200 baht/day). Lower prices can usually be negotiated for longer rentals. Try the rental stand outside the Mut Mee Guesthouse or at Limmaneemotor on Meechai Rd. Go for the one on Meechai Rd first. Their motorbikes are a lot better and the people there are very nice. You'll need a copy of your passport to rent one. Very cheap for long-term rental (Honda Dream 125 semi-auto 1,500 baht per month, Honda Scoopy about 2,000 baht per month).
- Bicycle Rental (outside Mut Mee Guesthouse). Rents Chinese-style no-gears bicycles with front basket, ideal for exploring Nong Khai's flat streets. Friendly Noi has been renting out bicycles for 20 years plus now. 50 baht/day, 200/per week.
- Luang Por Phra Sai. The Buddha image at Wat Po Chai is especially interesting. It is one of three Buddha images cast for the three daughters of King Setthathirath of Laos. The daughters were called Serm, Suk and Sai, and so the images are known as Phra Serm, Phra Suk and Phra Sai. Following wars between Thailand and Laos in 1827-28 to put down the aspirations of Chao Anouvong of Laos, the three images were taken from Vientiane by the Mekong River by the victorious Thais for eventual transportation to Bangkok. During a storm Phra Suk fell into the river, never to be recovered. Phra Serm was successfully removed to Bangkok, but on each attempt to transport Phra Sai to the Thai capital, some problem occurred and the image was left in Nong Khai, supposedly awaiting the re-emergence of Phra Suk from the Mekong. This valuable bronze and gold Buddha image is displayed on 13 April every year at Songkran.
- Mekong Fireballs. The unexplained appearance of the famous Mekong Fireballs takes place on the last night of Buddhist Lent. They are visible from several points along the river bank but the most famous place to view them is Phon Phisai, 40 km east of Nong Khai. These mysterious pink, glowing balls arise silently from the river after dusk, and are visible on this night only. Also known as the Naga Fireballs (after the Mekong River Naga), they appear for only a few seconds before disappearing as mysteriously as they appeared. There are many theories as to the cause of these fireballs. Many locals believe it is better not to know and would rather enjoy the festivities instead.
- Nong Khai Freshwater Aquarium (On the Khon Kaen University campus, about 7km out of Nong Khai). Tu-Su, 09:00-16:30. Famous for its giant catfish and displays various ocean-dwelling species as well as freshwater species. A good place to visit and relax, with a picnic garden area and a few drink stalls also available. On weekends the aquarium puts on scuba diving shows. Admission, 100 baht..
- Phra Taat Klangnam (Sunken Chedi). A large Lao-style chedi that was submerged in the Mekong in the 18th century. The chedi eventually fell over into the river in 1847 and is marked by a number of flags in the middle of the Mekong, which can be seen in the dry season when the water level drops. It is also known as the Holy Reliquary in the Middle of the River, and was supposedly built to conserve Buddha's right foot. A replica of the chedi, called Phra That Klang Nam, was built in 2006 and sits on the banks of the Mekong nearby.
- Phu Phra Bat Historical Park. One of the most famous and beautiful attractions in Thailand. This historical park dates back more than 3,000 years and contains large and mysterious rock formations. Transport to Phu Phra Bat is available in the form of motorbike, car, or bus and can take a day to travel and experience it. It is also possible to stay overnight at Phu Phra Bat Historical Park, and this is highly recommended.
- Phu Phra Bat was opened to the public in 1989 and is maintained by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand. Phu Phra Bat is known to be a very spiritual and peaceful environment and is a must-see for tourists, whether it be a day-trip or an overnight stay.
- The tale of Nang Usa is a famous piece of Thai folklore relating directly to the park. It is the legend of a young girl, sought after for her beauty, who is forced to live with an old hermit for her protection. She is wooed by the young and handsome Tao Barot, but their relationship is cursed. A fascinating aspect of the legend is that it alludes to the rivalry between the Hindu and Buddhist cultures that once lived side-by-side in this region.
- Sala Kaew Khu (Sala Keoku or Wat Khaek) (6 km E of Nong Khai on Hwy 212 (there is signage on the road indicating the direction to Sala Kaew Khu, spelled in many different ways on different signs). It's on the side of the road going towards Nong Khai (you'll need to make a U-turn if coming from Nong Khai). Once you turn off the highway (onto Salakaewkoo Rd), the site itself is about 1-1.5 km on the left). One sight that cannot be missed. This utterly bizarre park of massive sculptures (some over 20 m tall) is the handiwork of the mystic, Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, who bought the land in 1978 when he was kicked out of his native Laos. A similar park of his earlier work remains near Vientiane. Synthesizing Buddhism and Hindu ideologies, Buddhas, many-armed goddesses, naga snakes and all sorts of human-animal hybrids dominate the scenery.
- There is no direct public transport. The site can be reached by riding a bike or even walking. You can also arrange a return journey by tuk-tuk (around 100 baht including the cost of the driver waiting one hour) or hire a motorbike at Limmanee Motor in Nong Khai. Tour agencies can arrange private tours in an air conditioned vehicle starting from 100 baht per person. They offer free maps explaining the individual statues of the Wheel of Life, which are invaluable when walking around.
- Noteworthy is the Wheel of Life, depicting the artist's view of the cycle of life. You enter via a womb-shaped tunnel and walk the circle past statues depicting the stages of life.
- Luang Pu's mummified remains are enshrined on the third floor of the Sala Kaew Khu pavilion itself.
- The park is particularly imposing during the peak of the rainy season in August, when the sunlight is soft and changeable, vegetation is verdant and acacia trees are in full bloom with yellow fragrant flowers.
- The top of the tallest structure of Sulilat's earlier park on the Lao side of Mekong (known as Buddha Park) can be seen jutting above the trees if you walk along the Mekong past Wat That and look carefully over the Lao side of the river. Admission, 20 baht for Thais and foreigners..
- Wat Phu Tok (Temple of the Table Mountain) (About 4 hr from Nong Khai, near Bung Kan). Daily, 06:30-17:00. Closed 10-16 Apr. It's a rocky outcrop jutting from the Mekong floodplain. It can be ascended by steps and ladders built by Ajarn Juan, a celebrated monk and visionary who was famed throughout Thailand. There are seven levels of wooden steps, ladders, roots and rocks on the mountain which represent the seven levels of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy. Inside caves and sitting on cliffs, you will find many meditation huts that are used by monks from all over northeastern Thailand. Wat Phu Tok is a quiet mountain and a place of peace and respect where many climb to the summit to practice meditation. Ajarn Juan was killed in a plane crash on a trip to visit Her Majesty the Queen and his elaborate mausoleum is at this site also.
Nong Khai is a charming city to wander around on foot or on a rented bicycle and meet the friendly and helpful locals. It's also a good place from which soak up the Isaan culture of the neighbouring towns, which can easily be reached by bus from the main BKS ("Bor-kor-sor") bus station in the city centre, on Prajak Rd.
If you expect the usual tourist traps of Bangkok and Phuket, you will be disappointed. There are no supper clubs, go-go bars, or mega-malls. This is a place to chill by the Mekong River watching passenger and cargo boats scuttle between Thailand and Laos, or to finish that paperback that has been sitting in your luggage for weeks. You may also consider stocking up on travel necessities before trudging on to Laos. Many who have planned only an overnight stay have ended up staying for weeks.
During the months Jan-May when the Mekong River level is at its lowest, the Jomanee ("Joe-mar-nee") 'beach' appears near the Friendship Bridge, 2 km west of town. Food and drink vendors readily provide mats, shade and music for the hundreds of locals and tourists who patronise their stalls. An excellent spot to watch the sunset.
- Thai Boxing. For those interested in muay Thai boxing lessons on a long-term basis, go to the boxing stadium beside the Grand Hotel and speak to ex-Thai boxing national champion Ajarn Lart, a friendly local who speaks just enough English. This is the real deal, so do not expect an air-conditioned gym with cushy floor mats surrounded by ceiling-high mirrors.
- VS Fishing Park, 157/1 Moo 5 Tambon Hadkam, ☎ . , They have a restaurant there also. Fishing competitions held on the first Sunday of each month. All fish have to be returned to the pond after being caught. 20 kg carp have been caught here. 80 baht for the day to fish. 100 baht for a day's rental of rod, reel, hooks, etc. 20 baht for bag of sticky rice for bait.
- Daytrip to Udon Thani. Catch 50 minute train to Udon Thani at 1.03pm for just 11 baht. No trains back in afternoon or evening but can return by mini bus from central bus station near Central Plaza. Last bus back as late 10pm. The large Central Plaza shopping complex is near the Udon Thani train station. Has lots of shops, places to eat and multiplex cinema with English movies.
There are a variety of events and festivals that are celebrated and take place in and around Nong Khai throughout the year. They include various Rocket Festivals, Songkran, the Anou Savari Festival, the Candle Festival, the Rowing Festival, the mysterious Maekong Fireballs, the Chinese Festival, and Loi Krathong. In chronological order:
- Anou Savari Festival. Every year, the Anou Savari Festival occurs 5-15 Mar, spanning just over one week. Unique to Nong Khai, it is the city's biggest street fair and is held in celebration of the defeat of the Hau rebellions between 1884 and 1886. Street music enlivens the festival while games of Ta Kraw are also played. In 2014 the festival was held from 5-15 Mar.
- Songkran. The Thai New Year takes place on 13 Apr, spilling over to a few days prior and after this date, from 12-15 Apr. Thais celebrate by participating in Songkran, also known as the water festival. Water is splashed on others as symbolism of a blessing, and traditionally it was the day that Buddha images were cleaned. Songkran always turns into a large water fight and is one of the most popular festivals of the year.
- Rocket Festivals. The rocket festivals of Nong Khai normally occur in May, the sixth lunar month, in June, and sometimes July (also known as Bun BângFai). Every year at these times, large rockets are fired into the sky and the crowds gather to watch the event as well as enjoy the music, stalls, and vibrant atmosphere of the festival. Visakha Puja day, the day that Buddha was born, the day of his enlightenment, and the day of his death, marks the beginning of one of the biggest rocket festivals and a parade takes place in celebration. The festival is a lot of fun and traditionally it is held to encourage the clouds to part and water the crops, as well as a way to worship Phaya Thaen, the god of rain. Rockets are usually fired about 10 km from Wat Pho Chai, but a temple festival is normally held at Wat Pho Chai itself. In 2014 Visakha Puja day will be on Tuesday, 13 May, and the festival goes on for about a week
- Candle Festival. The annual Candle Festival is a beautiful street parade which takes place on the day before the beginning of Buddhist Lent. Huge candles are built in the grounds of Wat Chayaporn on the days prior to the festival. On the day of the festival they are paraded on floats through the streets, accompanied by dancing girls, boys in their traditional Siamese costumes and middle aged devotees in their white robes. In 2014, the candle festival takes place on Friday, 11 Jul.
- Rowing Festivals. 4-8 Oct 1014. Rowing festivals take place in Sep-Oct and involve longboats with crews of up to fifty five rowers each. During the first few weeks of Buddhist Lent, Paan Saa, the rowers begin their practice for the race. The race is a spectacular display of athletic talent and the festivities that surround the event are a must-see for any visitor to Nong Khai.
- Okk Paan Saa. The most important festival in Nong Khai is at the end of Buddhist Lent. This is when the Mekong Fireballs appear. During this period there are dragon boat races, a big festival in Nong Khai, and at Phon Phisai where the Mekong fireballs are visible. The date for 2014 is on and around 8 Oct.
- Chinese Dragon Festival. During late-Oct and early-Nov, the people of Nong Khai hold their version of the Chinese Dragon Festival and it lasts for ten days. It's a fantastic event to attend and involves amazing displays of acrobatics, dancing Chinese lions, dancing dragons, parades, firecrackers, and Chinese opera.
- Loi Krathong. 6 Nov 2014. The Loi Krathong Festival is known as the second most important festival of the year and occurs between the middle of the 11th lunar moon to the middle of the 12th lunar moon, which is flood season, making the waters high and ideal for this festival. In 2014 Loi Krathong is on Thursday, 6 Nov. Krathong are small, floating shrines or lanterns normally made out of bamboo leaves and decorated with flowers, incense, and candles. The floating of the Krathong represents the gratitude of the Thais to the gods for the rain, as well as a blessing and good luck for the year. Loi Krathong involves a krathong parade, krathong-design contests, and Noppamas which are beauty pageants.
- Openmind Projects. A locally-based volunteer organisation which provides an excellent initial 3 day training to all volunteers and provides placements ranging from teaching English in local schools to more distant placements in southern Thailand, Cambodia, and Nepal, and in eco-projects in Thailand and Laos. 11,965 baht admin fee; 1-2 weeks in Thailand, 10,343 baht.
Getting a Thai Visa in nearby Vientiane
- From Nong Khai Bus Station go to border/Friendship Bridge by tuk-tuk.
- Fill out your Thai Departure Card (stapled in passport) and exit Thailand.
- Take the bridge shuttle bus (tickets 15 baht at ticket stand) to the Lao side.
- Get Lao entry application at Window 2. Fill this in and include one passport photo.
- USD35 for Lao entry visa [USD available for sale just around corner. Much better rate than the 1,500 baht charged if you pay in Thai baht. Only USD50 notes available but change will be given in USD. Use it next time you go or spend it in Lao.
- Give [completed form, one passport photo, and passport] at Window 1
- Wait at Window 3 (just around corner) for passport. Your name will be called/passport photo waved around
- You can buy Lao currency (Lao kip) at the same window as the USD. The rate has been 254 kip = 1 baht for a long time now. You can easily use baht or US dollars in Lao so you don't need to change money. Lao currency is very difficult to change back into baht or dollars, so if you do buy kip, don't buy too much.
- Proceed past the 'entry fee' kiosks. You will rarely be asked for the 20 baht entry fee
- Negotiate for an air-con taxi (better than tuk-tuk) which will take you to the Thai Embassy, wait for you, and take you to a hotel of your choice for 150 baht per person for 2 people. (Tuk-tuks want 200 baht just to take you to the embassy)
- Thai Embassy open for visa applications from 08:00-12:00
- Return next Working Day (Thai Embassy Closed Weekends and Thai Holidays) between 13:00-15:00 to collect your passport with completed visa (e.g., 60-day tourist visa). The same taxi driver will pick you up at your hotel the next day at 12:30 if you agree on this with him. Same price.
- Arrive at the Friendship bridge (Lao side) by taxi
- There is a duty free shop across the road
- Fill in your Lao departure card (stapled to your passport) and exit Lao
- Take the bridge shuttle bus (tickets 4,000 Lao kip or 15 baht at ticket stand) to the Thai side
- Get a Thai arrival card at the kiosk and fill it in (at least the arrival half)
- Go to the immigration kiosk and get stamped into Thailand. Your new Thai visa has just been activated. Check the stamp has the correct duration, just in case (depends on what type of visa you've got, e.g., 60-days)
- Get a tuk-tuk to Nong Khai bus station (50 baht per person for 2 people)
South of town on the Udon Thani Rd is a Tesco-Lotus, a full-fledged Western-style supermarket with satellite shopping arcade and a cinema (nearly always Thai or Western movies dubbed into Thai). Nearby on Sunday afternoons/evenings is the Sunday Market, which sells all kinds of things.
There are plenty of banks with ATMs, in particular along Prajak Rd, and on Meechai Rd which runs parallel and to the north of Prajak Rd. Some ATMs limit withdrawals to 3,000 baht/day, although the ones inside Tesco-Lotus near the cashiers allow withdrawals up to 25,000 baht. The only bank branch open on Saturdays is at the Tesco-Lotus. If you stand in front of the main entrance pass the building on the right side and enter near the bookshop.
- Hornbill Bookshop (On the soi leading to Mut Mee Guesthouse). Good collection of fiction, non-fiction, guide books, maps and a growing collection of international titles. The owner has an extensive knowledge of her books and about Thailand in general.
- Sunday Market. There is a large Sunday market beside the railway station every Sunday afternoon and evening. Plenty of cooked/uncooked food as well as endless clothes stalls.
- Tha Sadet Market (In town, near the Mekong). Also known as the Indochina market. Largely covered and winding along more than seven streets, it has much of the feeling of a Middle Eastern bazaar. An extraordinary range of items from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, China, and even Russia can be found here. It is a daytime market, selling clothes, fabrics, electronics, optical equipment, ornaments, knickknacks, massage aids, traditional furniture and oddities. Porntip Exchange, towards the end of the market, is a good place to change currency.
- Tesco-Lotus. Big supermarket, part of Asawann shopping complex.
- Walking Street - Saturday evening festival. Every Saturday from 17:00 on there is a street festival on the promenade along the Mekong River in the centre of town. There are many food stalls, dance displays and stalls raising money for good causes and charities. Lots of interesting items for sale.
- The majority of locals eat out at the dozens of restaurants and bars along the Rimkhong (the riverside road) at the east end of town. Food here is cheaper and often better than in the town centre. English is not always spoken, but increasingly Nong Khai restaurants have menus in more than one language.
- There are also many Thai food vendors along Prajak Rd who sell excellent cheap food.
- Both of these areas are aimed principally at evening customers, so many eateries don't open until after dark. However, there are a number of Thai (and European) establishments in and around Tha Sadet Market that are open during the day.
- Other markets, including the Chayapone Market (between Meechai Rd and Kaeworawut Rd, near the Thai Lao Riverside Hotel), the Wednesday evening market (near the Nongkhai Grand Hotel), the morning market (near the bus station), and the other market near the sunken chedi at the east end of town, also have cooked/uncooked food.
- Arm Bar and Restaurant (On the promenade about midway down, next door to the big sunset terrace restaurant). 09:00 till late. Really good Thai and European food, with sausage and bacon for breakfast. Well-worth a visit. Lovely Thai lady owner speaks good English.
- Daeng Naem Nueang (On the Mekong on Rim Kong Rd). Widely acclaimed Vietnamese restaurant known all over Thailand (one royal princess is a habitue). The staff are friendly, but not all proficient in English. They offer pre-packed take-away packages of naem neuang (a delicious Vietnamese dish) for 300+ baht if you want to eat elsewhere (lasts for ~3 days in the fridge).
- Dee Dee and Thai Thai, Prajak Rd (Main street). Two Chinese-style diners right next to one another serving good Thai and Chinese food. They are open later than most other restaurants. "Thai Thai" is open later, but "Dee Dee" generally has the better food.
- Food Court (Opposite hospital, behind 7-Eleven). Small food court, selling cheap Thai food, open in the day time only, typically closed by 16:00. Popular for lunch with staff working at the hospital across the road. 40 baht.
- German Bakery (Corner of Meechai and Haisok). Has very good bread.
- Im Im Dim Sum (Downtown Nong Khai, Soi Sook Pracha near the PP Sport Centre). Serving dim sum, noodle, fried snacks, coffee, and tea.
- Nagarina (On the river in front of Mut Mee Guest House and Wat Hai Sok), ☎ . , A large riverboat that makes a cruise along the Mekong River in the evening to see the sunset, usually departing at 17:00. The Nagarina docks beside a floating Thai restaurant, the Nagarina Restaurant, serving fish dishes which can be ordered in advance to be served on board.
- Ruan Thai Coffee & Breakfast, Rimkhong Rd. Run by a very pleasant young Thai woman who does her best to speak English. The prices are a little high, but the food is excellent and the restaurant itself is also quite nice.
- Vegetarian Restaurant (On the soi just E of the post office). Breakfast and lunch till about 15:00-16:00. Not many mock meats. About 25 baht (buffet) or 35 baht (menu) per meal.
- Yota Vegetarian Restaurant, Kaeworawut Rd (A few minutes W of Mutmee Guesthouse). Most dishes here have mock meat, usually very convincing. Breakfast and lunch, sometimes dinner (if there's a special occasion). About 25 baht per meal.
- Anchor Bar. Popular bar for expats. Great music and decent pool table.
- Bamboo Bar. Another small bar visited by expats. A couple of other small bars are nearby also.
- Manchester Arms. 13:00-late. English owned, gay-friendly bar offering alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Free Wi-Fi and live sport on TV as well as great views across the Mekong to Laos and stunning sunsets almost daily.
- May Enjoy Bar. Originally the Funky Money Bar but renamed by the new owners. Small bar, popular with expats and tourists. There are now 16 similar bars along this short stretch of road.
- Noi and Brendan's Bar. Popular drinking spot with pool table beside the river at the start of Walking Street. Has a good picture food menu too with both Thai and Western meals.
- Nong's Place. Nong used to have a bar near the riverside but has relocated inland. Popular bar with tourists and expats.
- ThaiGun Aeng Bar, Rim Kong Rd (On the Mekong E of Thasade Market). Relaxing environment with a great view of the Mekong. It has a free pool table, friendly staff, quality drinks, fun music, Western-style toilets. This is a great bar to visit. Highly recommended!
- Warm Up (On Rimkhong Rd (riverside) W of Thasadej market, and also accessible from the promenade). The most popular bar with young locals.
- Grand Paradise Hotel. Aging upmarket hotel that could do with a face lift (2014). Has a swimming pool that non-guests can use for 120 baht. 1,000 baht.
- Meeting Place. Guesthouse with about 7 rooms in old wooden building with shared toilets and showers. One of the few remaining cheap places to stay in town. Has nice courtyard garden with tables and chairs and a couple of hammocks. Friendly owners. 200 baht.
- Mekong Guesthouse, 519 Rimkhong Rd (20 m from the Tha Sadet Market), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 15 comfortable Thai-style rooms with single and double beds. Another two rooms with private balconies overlooking the river. Have dorm rooms for 150 baht. Has in-house restaurant. 500-1,000 baht.
- Mut Mee Guesthouse, 1111/4 Kaeworawut Rd (On the riverbank, behind Nong Khai Hospital), ☎ , , fax: +66 42 412182. Long-established and understandably popular. In a tree-filled garden overlooking the river. It has both simple and higher quality rooms surrounded by hammocks and a variety of seating. It has a boat called the Nagarina which cruises on the river at sunset. Mut Mee owns the Gaia Bar which floats on the Mekong river below. Bicycles for rent. Yoga & meditation classes are available. Large range of good food and drinks available for all even if you are not staying here. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes offered. Free Wi-Fi. Good bookshop with a very wide selection of English language books. Good open-air massage service. Free maps of Nong Khai available with much information of what to do and see in the area and help planning trips. 180-1,000 baht.
- Nong Khai Resort (Opposite train station). A nice resort with Balinese gardens and swimming pool. Pool can be used by non guests for 60 baht, plus 20 baht for towel.
- Rimkhong Guesthouse, 815/1-3 Rimkhong Rd (A few blocks downriver from Mut Mee, about 100 paces beyond the Nong Khai Pier building), ☎ . Rebuilt guesthouse, much more upmarket than before 2012. The wonderful courtyard garden full of tables and benches and charming bric-a-brac is now mostly gone replaced by concrete but a little still remains. Lots of area information posted around the courtyard. Rooms include air-con but no optional fan, good quality Wi-Fi. 700+ baht.
- Royal Mekong. Fancy hotel slightly outside town. Now in need of renovation. But has a decent swimming pool that non-guests can use for 90 baht.
- Sawasdee Guesthouse, 402 Meechai Rd (5 min from the bus station on foot), ☎ . An old, colonial style building on a good location offering single rooms with a fan for 180 baht and double rooms with air-con a few hundred baht more. The rooms are good and clean, guesthouse has nice communal area and free Wi-Fi. Friendly and helpful owner who can give you lots of tips for getting around. 180-450 baht.
Relax in one of the villages along the Mekong to the west (from near to far): Tha Bo, Si Chiang Mai (famous for spring roll wrappers), Sangkhom and Chiang Khan (popular with Thai tourists) in neighbouring Loei Province.
- Jom Jang — a village on the banks of the Mekong river, approximately 18 km east of the city
- Vientiane — the capital of Laos, is just across the Mekong; most visitors can get visas on arrival at the border
- Udon Thani — large Thai city with airport, one hour away by bus or 45 minutes by train for only 11 baht.
- Bueng Kan - Newest province of Thailand, split from Nong Khai in 2011
|Routes through Nong Khai|
|END ←||N S||→ Udon Thani → Nakhon Ratchasima|
|END ←||N S||→ Udon Thani → Saraburi|