Lying on the southern bank of Mekong river, Nong Khai is a lively town just 20 minutes from Vientiane, capital of Laos. The entire city is filled with images of the Naga, the giant serpant of Mekong. There are several waterfalls, riverside villages, forest temples, and many serene landscapes.
Known as the Naga city, Nong Khai is a model for the Issan culture of north-east Thailand, which is very different from the cultures followed in the rest of Thailand. This town has a growing tourist industry with many foreigners visiting year after year. The most important attractions are Sala Keaw Khu, the huge and magnificent sculpture park, Luang Por Phra Sai Buddha image, the Tha Sadet Market which boasts Thai-Lao culture and the Phu Phra Bat Historical park. The town is known for its super kind and warm locals who truly respect the Issan culture and history of Naga and Lord Buddha. Nong Khai is also home to the famous Buddhist Lent festival.
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Be prepared to put good use of your bargaining skills when visiting Nong Khai; especially when you are getting around the town by using tuk-tuks (Thai auto-rickshaw). Make sure that you are polite and smiling the whole time you are bargaining; this will increase your chances of settling at a reasonable price.
Renting bicycles or motorbikes is the cheapest way to get around this town; with bicycles available for rent for 50 Baht for a day and motorcycles for 200 Baht a day at Mut Mee guest house and a few other rental places. One can further negotiate and rent for a lower price if they wish to rent a bicycle or motorbike for a more extended period of time.
People who have a restricted budget but wish to take full advantage of the vast That and Isaan cuisine that the town offers should definitely visit evening eateries situated along the Prajak Road and the bars and restaurants along the east end of the town at the Rimkhong. Western food is not that great in the town, so it is better to go for the dishes of the other two cuisines.
While Nong Khai is a relatively safe city, it is a good idea to get a tuk-tuk back than to walk to your hotel if you are getting back late. Also, you can expect to come across some lethal dogs here that are incredibly protective of the areas that they reside in. So, don’t hesitate to ward them off using a stick if they seem too aggressive.
Nong Khai oversees elaborate festivities during many festivals that are celebrated here. Therefore, check if you are visiting the town around that time so that you can enjoy these traditional festivities and make the most of your time. The annual Naga Fireball Festival that usually occurs around late October is one of these fantastic festivals in which mysterious balls of soft-glowing light are seen floating over the Mekong river. While some people believe that these ‘magical orbs’ occur because of the mythical naga snakes, more realistic reason for their occurrence entails that they take place because of some flammable gas that reacts due to marshy soil.
Being a small quaint town, Nong Khai is a really good place to learn about Isaan and Thai culture and interact with locals more closely. Visitors will see a lot of images of beautiful Nagas in this ‘Naga city’, guarding the entrance of the temples and shrines. The peaceful riverside, pink sunsets, authentic and simple alleys of the town along with some of the must-visit attractions that inhabit this town make it a great place to visit.
This town does not have a lot of activities in store for visitors with an adventure-seeking side that likes to explore exciting places and carry out new activities. Also, there is a lack of public transportation, so tuk-tuks and renting a bicycle or motorcycle are the only ways to get around the town for tourists.
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