Nong Khai: Gateway to Laos
Nong Khai lies at the end of the Northern arm of the North-Eastern Railway, on the border with Laos. It is a typical Thai border town: straggling along the Mekong River, it has a huge Border Market, an abundance of Backpacker Hotels and a busy river life. It is also an important gateway to Laos and most people visit Nong Khai on the way to Vientiane.
Nong Khai Riverside with Friendship Bridge to Laos in the distance
I had not visited the town for about 8 years until recently and it has changed a lot. The riverside area has been much developed. Last time I was there most of the front was inaccessible, blocked by houses, shop-houses, restaurants and hotels.
Now a promenade has been constructed between the river and the buildings and many restaurants and bars have sprung up to cater for visitors. Prices are generally reasonable, with food available for 60-100 Baht, a large beer for 80-100 Baht. The Restaurant at the Western End of the River Walk puts chairs and tables out by the river. They have a good, reasonably priced seafood menu.
Not a great deal to do in Nong Khai, but a friendly relaxed place to chill out for a few days.
Early Morning on the Mekong
take the overnight train from Bangkok, and then a 10 minute tuk-tuk ride into town - it should not cost more than 50 Baht. If you do not have a specific destination tell the driver "Rim Khong" (Riverside Road).
: Fly to Udon Thani, then take a bus from the airport to Nong Khai. The Bus station in Nong Khai is a short walk South of the river, and about 15 minutes East of the market and hotel area.
Long distance buses from Bangkok and most parts of Thailand end at the bus station described above.
Nong Khai Market
Nong Khai Market runs by the side of the river for about 1 kilometer. It is a covered market with products mainly from China, via Laos: fabrics, souvenirs, electronics, garments etc. If you are walking from the bus station, this is a good path to take as it is covered from the sun, though used also by motor-cycles!
Nong Khai Hotels
Lots of cheap hotels (200-500 Baht per room), mainly clustered near the riverside walk. A little bit different is the Mut Mee Hotel, somewhat away from the night life area and set in pleasant gardens by the river. Rooms, food and drink are reasonably priced; Wi-Fi reaches the riverside garden and is used by the many foreign visitors. A journalist friend of mine likes to stay there when working on a project.
Garden at the Mut Mee Hotel with view of Laos
From Nong Khai to Vientiane
Two trains go to Laos ever day from Nong Khai station (see timetable at
}, but not very far into Laos. From Thanaleng Station you need to take a bus or taxi to Vientiane. Visa Services are available at the Station.
From the Bus Station in Nong Khai there is a bus all the way to Vientiane, but unfortunately you need to have a visa for Laos before you go. The bus will not wait for you if you need to get a visa at the border. Otherwise take a tuk-tuk to Thai Immigration (about 80 Baht), and after you have exited Thailand take the bus that crosses from Thailand to Laos Immigration (15 Baht).
The visa to Laos costs 1,300 Baht or 35 US dollars (Baht and USD are accepted throughout Vientiane). After you exit immigration, take a taxi to the city. Haggle for around 1-200 Baht.
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