Paul is an American ex-pat living in Udon Thani, Thailand. He has visited Nong Khai town and province many times since 2004.
Must-See Nong Khai Tourist Attractions
Any trip to northeastern Thailand or Isaan is incomplete without a visit to Nong Khai town and province. Besides being the gateway to Laos, Nong Khai has many interesting attractions for tourists. They include temples, restaurants, an Indo-China market, and river cruises departing from the Mekhong riverside promenade.
Just outside of Nong Khai town you will discover interesting sculptures and a crocodile farm at Sala KeoKu. Finally, you can capture breathtaking views of the Mekhong River at the Wat (Temple) Pha Tak Suea near Sang Khom 80 kilometers from Nong Khai.
After describing each of the above mentioned tourist attractions in detail, I will discuss Nong Khai's location in Thailand and how to reach it from Bangkok.
Two-Day Itinerary for Nong Khai
Before heading into Laos and Vientiane for a holiday, I would spend two days visiting popular tourist attractions in Nong Khai Town and Province. You can easily do this by renting a car in Udon Thani.
Day 1: Temples, River Walks, Markets, and a River Cruise
After getting to Nong Khai from Udon Thani via Highway 2, I would first visit Wat Pho Chai and Phra That Chedi both temples near the Nong Khai riverside promenade.
Next, I would take a stroll on the promenade and tour the Tha-Sadet Indochina Market. Following shopping there, you will be hungry for lunch. I would recommend a restaurant next to the promenade serving Vietnamese food.
After lunch, I would suggest taking a short Mekhong River cruise. By killing two birds with one stone, you could also book a Mekhong River luncheon cruise.
Day 2: More Temples, Buddhist Sculptures, and a Crocodile Farm
On the second day, I would drive 80 kilometers west along the Mekhong River to the Glass Skywalk at Wat Pha Tak Suea for views of the Mekhong in the morning.
In the afternoon, you could visit Sala Keoku in the Nong Khai town area and see unusual Buddhist sculptures as well as enjoying a show on a crocodile farm.
1. Visit Wat Pho Chai and Phra That Chedi
When visiting Nong Khai town, I would first suggest visiting two popular Buddhist temples—the Wat Pho Chai and the Phra That Chedi.
After arriving in Nong Khai on Highway 2 by car, take a right onto Route 212 and follow it for one or two kilometers. Off to the left, you will see a big temple and then get on to Po Chai Road to reach Wat Pho Chai the main temple of Nong Khai. Many Thai Buddhist traditions come to this temple to make merit and pray to the golden Luangpho Phra Sai sacred Buddha golden statue. The temple is also known for its colorful murals.
Leaving Wat Pho Chai, drive three or four blocks until you reach the Mekhong Riverside Promenade. After finding parking there, walk 100 or 200 meters to the end of the promenade where you will see the modern Phra That La Nong modern chedi.
Most people, however, are interested in the sunken Phra That Chedi or stupa in the middle of the river. According to the Lonely Planet, the sunken chedi is a ruined Lao-style chedi that is submerged in the middle of the Mekhong River. It toppled over in 1847 and can only be seen when the water level of the Mekhong is low.
When my wife and I visited the sunken chedi, we rented a private speedboat that took us to the stupa in the middle of the river.
Going to the Phra That Sunken Chedi in the Mekhong River
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2. Walk the Riverside Promenade
The Nong Khai Mekhong Riverside Promenade is over three kilometers long and runs from near the Phra That La Nong Chedi west toward the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge.
You will find the Tha-Sadet Indochina Market, a transportation pier for small boats, and many western, Thai, and Vietnamese-style restaurants along the promenade. Each will now be described.
3. Visit the Tha-Sadet Indochina Market
The Tha-Sadet Indochina Market is near the Tha-Sadet Phaya Naga Monument. It is inside a long enclosed 400 meter-long building just off of the promenade. Inside the market, you can find almost anything ranging from Thai-style food and snacks, souvenirs, Thai-style silk, kitchen utensils, Chinese electronic imports, toys, and other clothing.
Tha Sadet Indochina Market
Mekhong River Cruise Under Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge
4. Take a Mekhong River Cruise From the Transportation Pier
Group and private Mekhong River cruises are available at the transportation pier next to the promenade. They include private sightseeing and group luncheon cruises.
A private sightseeing tour for two to ten people will last for almost one hour. After departing the Tha-Sadet pier, a boat will take you along the Thai shore toward the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge. Following a U-turn under the bridge, the cruise heads back to the Tha-Sadet pier along the Lao shore. I paid 800 Thai baht (about $25) for a two-person private cruise.
A luncheon cruise takes the same route as sightseeing tours and lasts about 90 minutes. Delicious Thai-style food and beverages are served.
Mekhong River Cruise
5. Eat at the Restaurants on the Promenade
There are many western, Thai, and Vietnamese-style restaurants on the promenade. My favorite is the Daeng NamNueng, which serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine. The dishes include Vietnamese fresh and fried spring rolls, sausage, grilled spare ribs, vegetables, noodles, and rice dishes. Since the restaurant is next to the promenade, you have an excellent view of the Mekhong River and a peek into Laos on the opposite shore. Prices are moderate.
Tourist Attractions Outside of Nong Khai Town
On a second day visiting Nong Khai, I would suggest visiting the Glass Skywalk at Wat Pha Tak Suea in the morning and the Crocodile Farm and Buddhist sculptures at Sal KeoKu in the afternoon.
6. Brave the Wat Pha Tak Suea Skywalk
The Wat Pha Tak Suea temple is 80 kilometers to the northwest of Nong Khai. You can reach it by taking a two-lane road Highway 211 that runs along the Mekhong River. Approximately 20 kilometers outside of Nong Khai, you will see the skyline of Vientiane, Laos, to the right on the opposite side of the Mekhong.
This is a very scenic route and right before you reach the town of Sang Khom you will see the signs for the Glass Skywalk. Getting off onto a small, winding road, you ascend a hill until you reach Wat Pha Tak Suea.
There is a U-shaped glass skywalk that extends off of a hill near the temple. Only 20 persons are allowed on the glass skywalk at one time. After removing your shoes to get on it, you will be rewarded with a breath-taking view of Sang Khom, the Mekhong River, and Laos. Besides the glass skywalk, there is another good vantage point where you can take pictures of the Mekhong and Laos.
Glass Skywalk at Wat Pha Tak Suea near Sang Khom in Nong Khai Province
View of Mekhong River and Laos from Wat Pha Tak Suea near Sang Khom, Nong Khai
7. Visit the Crocodile Farm
Since the trip to the Glass Sky Walk and back to Nong Khai will take all morning, I recommend visiting the Crocodile Farm and Buddhist sculptures at Sala KeoKu in the afternoon.
Sala KeoKu is located five kilometers to the east of Nong Khai Town. You get to it by taking Highway 212 to the east until you see the sign for Sala KeoKu. After seeing the sign, make a U-turn and come back toward Nong Khai until you see the entrance to Sala KeoKu.
When I visited the Crocodile Farm in 2015, there were crocodile shows on the hour in the afternoon. During the show, young Thai men would stir up fairly good size crocodiles until they opened their jaws. The highlight of the show was one man wrestling with a crocodile and another sticking his head into open jaws. Admission to the show was only 30 Thai baht (less than 1$) for kids and 50 baht (less than 2$ for adults).
8. Check Out the Buddhist Sculptures at Sala Keoku
After viewing the show, I would recommend visiting a nearby park filled with concrete sculptures inspired by Buddhism and Hinduism.
Where Is Nong Khai in Thailand?
Nong Khai Town and Province are located in the upper part of northeastern Thailand aka Isaan. Bordering Laos, Nong Khai Town is 624 kilometers or 375 miles northeast of Bangkok. Via the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, Nong Khai is only 23 kilometers from Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
How to Get to Nong Khai
From Bangkok, a tourist can reach Nong Khai by car, bus, train, or plane.
Via a four-lane expressway Highway 2, it will take about 10 hours by bus or car to travel to Nong Khai.
There is a train service but it is even slower taking about 12 hours.
The best way to reach Nong Khai from Bangkok is by air via Udon Thani. You can get flights from either Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang Airport to Udon Thani that take only 50 minutes. By taking a discount airline like Thai Lion Air or Nok Air, a round-trip ticket between Don Muang and Udon Thani will cost about 2,000 Thai baht or $65.
Nong Khai is only 60 kilometers or about 55 minutes by car or bus from Udon Thani.
© 2020 Paul Richard Kuehn