Guide to Nong Khai, Thailand

Guide to Nong Khai, Thailand
We’ve stayed almost 4 months in Nong Khai. We love this little town and if/when we come back to Thailand we will make it our base in the region. What makes this town so unique? It’s pretty, clean, peaceful, is not touristy (you may find yourself saying “hey look, there’s a white tourist!”) yet it has just enough of an expat population to ensure a few of the basic comforts of home. Most importantly, it hasn’t lost its authentic small-town Thai feel. We’ve made a lot of friends here.

This guide is meant to help short-term  or slow travellers who intend on spending anything from a day to a few months in Nong Khai. I’ll cover how to get to here, accommodation, and food options (including our favorite restaurants). I’ll also tell you what you should see and do while in Nong Khai. 

 

Getting There

Air – Most people get to Nong Khai by flying from Bangkok to Udon Thani. Nok Air, Air Asia, and Thai Lion Air fly from Bangkok’s Don Muang airport, while Thai and Bangkok Airways fly out of Suvarnabhumi (Bangkok’s international airport). All do the Bangkok–Udon Thani Route a couple of times a day. Flying time is 1 hour. Just to give you a reference point: we paid 1400 Baht/person one-way flying to Bangkok with Thai Airways (ie. roughly $43 USD).

Once at the airport in Udon Thani, you can take a minibus to Nong Khai. Minibuses cost 200 Baht/person. For a taxi you will be quoted 900 Baht (note: We paid 600 Baht when we left Nong Khai by booking a driver through the guesthouse. So you may be able to get a better rate if you pre-arrange your taxi).

Train. Daily trains do the Bangkok-Nong Khai run. We know a few people who prefer this to taking the plane. They recommend getting a 1st class sleeper cabin (tip: bring warm clothing, they really pump up the AC).

Train with 1st class sleeper cabins leave Bangkok at 8 pm arriving in Nong Khai at 7:45 AM.
Train with 1st class sleeper cabins leave Nong Khai at 6:20 pm arriving in Bangkok at  6:00 AM.

Tourist-Map-of-Nong-Khai

Above: Map credit to Mut Mee Guesthouse (with heavy editing on my part).


Accommodations

1. Pikul Apartment Hotel. This is where we stayed for 3 ½ months and is the preferred accommodation option in Nong Khai for slow travellers (and the only one we came across that offered monthly rates). The location is perfect, the building modern and attractive, the rooms large.  There is a fridge in the room but no kitchen (as is the case for all Thai guesthouses that we’ve come across). Pikul is not in any way luxurious: the furniture is beat up and they could do a better job with the upkeep of the rooms.

Rate: 6500 Baht/month plus electricity (approx 1200bt/month) plus water (approx 120 bt/mo). Get everything in writing. If you are here for a month or two Pikul is the place to stay.

The guesthouses listed below offer accommodation charged on a nightly basis. We went to a few inquiring about monthly rates but had no luck. 400/Baht per night seems to be the going base rate with higher rates depending on amenities such as Air Conditioning and room size. Note that all rooms usually include a fridge but not a kitchen. You’ll notice that all the places I recommend are in Central Nong Khai – this is the place to stay if a short term visitor. Don’t make the mistake of staying outside the center.

2. Mut Mee guesthouse is an institution in town and the preferred spot for short stays. Their location is ideal, with a pretty garden and good restaurant (covered below) overlooking the river.  It is the place to come for tourist information and services. You can arrange Visa runs to Vientiane here and even exchange Baht for USD. They also offer yoga classes, have a book store, as well as their own boat for nightly river cruises (covered below). Their website offers lots of good tourist information.

3. Siri Guesthouse is right around the corner from Mut Mee and is a quiet option for those wanting a reprieve from the more popular neighbor. Very clean with nice facilities and the people seem friendly.

4. There are a bunch of Guesthouses within very close proximity along Rim Khong Road. The first of these is the Rim Khong Guesthouse. Very nice building and we inquired about monthly rates (they said no and didn’t seem very friendly about it). A shame as the facilities look sparkling and the location is perfect.

5. A few steps down the street is the very popular Ruan Thai Guesthouse. Gets good reviews. Right next to Ruan Thai is Jing Joe Restaurant (covered later in the food section) which also rents out rooms.

6. There are a couple of guesthouses directly on the promenade and both look good. The first of these is the Baan Sabai Rim Khong Guesthouse. Very pretty spot and the balconies have views over the promenade and the Mekong.

7. Just a little further down the promenade is the Pan Guesthouse. Like the Baan Sabai Rim Kong, it is very clean. The only downside to these two guesthouses is that it can at times get loud along the promenade at night. Otherwise they are both great spots to enjoy the views, especially on Saturday when the night market is in full swing.

 

 

Eating

Those staying longer-term will want to pick up supplies at the big Tesco Lotus store. It is a 10 minute Tuk-tuk ride from the center (going rate is 60 baht). The other place we liked to pick up supplies was the German Bakery (covered below).

Most travellers will frequent the many restaurants in Central Nong Khai which are quite affordable compared to other places in Thailand. We would eat out for lunch every day and if I averaged it out the cost would add up to about 300 Baht for two main courses, a shared salad, and two beers (ie. 150 Baht, or about 4.50 USD each). I’m not talking about street food, I’m talking about some nice sit-down restaurants.
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Here are some of our favorite restaurants:
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1. Macky’s Riverside Restaurant opened up on the promenade during our stay and quickly became one of our favorites. Very good Thai and Western food and a fantastic location right on the promenade. If you go, start with a shrimp-cake or fish-cake salad. Really good. Our preferred main dishes were chicken (or tofu) with basil served with rice. The Masaman Curry is also very good. We loved the ambiance of this place, especially on Saturday nights when the activity of the market is right at the doorstep of the restaurant. If you go to Macky’s say hi to Bart and tell him we recommended the restaurant (Note: We received no compensation for this or any other review on this blog. We don’t do that kind of stuff).

macky's riverside kitchen, nong khai
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2. Jing-Joe Restaurant has the best pizza as well as, in our opinion, the best breakfast (the ‘Big Aussie’) in Nong Khai. They are also the only place we came across that does delivery. We had pizza delivered to our door at least once a week. Our favorite pizzas: the Jing Joe Special (with all the toppings), the Hawaii pizza, the Pad Kapow Gai (Thai inspired pizza. Really good). Nice place and good people.

Jing Joe pizza, nong khai
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3. German Bakery. We love Rudi at the German Bakery. It is located about a 5 minute walk out of the center behind the hospital. Here you can have authentic German sausages (with real German mustard) served on a bun. Rudi’s bread is the best in Nong Khai and the same can be said for his salami and cheese. We would come here once a week and stock up with sandwich-making stuff. He makes a fantastic breakfast and his pate is incredible. If I called Jing Joe’s breakfast the best in town then I would call Rudi’s breakfast the most refined. But the best, the very best thing, is Rudi’s apple pie. It’s the best apple pie we’ve ever had.  If I had a restaurant in town I would get Rudi to supply me with apple pies. Many people come here just for a beer or coffee and a piece of pie.

Rudi at the German Bakery
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4
. Daeng Namnuang Vietnamese restaurant is the most popular restaurant in Nong Khai and one of the most popular in all of Thailand. It is famous. It is also the largest employer in town. People come from out of town in tour buses to eat here. A Thai princess comes to Daeng Namnuang once a month. Locals love this place.

The menu is incredibly simple and lists only about 12 different items. But the food is fresh and tasty. Westerners may be confused on how to eat it. Order the ‘salad’ bowl pictured on the menu’s top left corner, it should accompany everything you eat. The trick is to wrap the pieces of whatever you’re eating with the salad and to dip the ensemble into the dipping sauces served you. Use your hands, it’s what everyone does. Most people order a variety of dishes and just mix a whole bunch of stuff together. We would usually end up eating here once a week.

Daeng Namnuang Vietnamese restaurant, nong khai 2

 

5. Brendan and Noi’s is an expat favorite and features good local as well as Western food. My only criticism is that the food and level of service can vary greatly. We ate here a few times and swore that the food was the best in Nong Khai. We came back a few other times and the food was bland. Tell them if you like your Thai food spicy because they tend to err on the side of prudence…

brandon and Noi's, nong khai

Brandon and Noi'sAbove: Brendan and Noi’s delicious Masaman Curry and fish burger.
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6. Mut Mee Guesthouse has a very good restaurant which has the lowest prices of any of the places I’ve listed. I’ve mentioned before that the location is idyllic with beautiful gardens and a prime spot on the river. A unique vibe.

Mut mee restaurant
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7
. Cake at Toeyfor the best coffee in town. It’s around the corner from Pikul so we came here almost every day for an ice cappuccino. Their American brownies (you’ll see them for sale on the counter) are good. Very nice setting, like Starbucks at one-third the price. We’ll miss this place.

cake at toey's nong khai

 

The above were our favorites and by no means a complete list of restaurants in Nong Khai. If anyone reading this has any recommendations feel free to write a comment below. We might try them out the next time in Nong Khai.

 

What to see and Do
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1. Sala Keoku, the sculpture park about 15 minutes outside the center, is the highlight of the area. Worth a couple of visits. I did a detailed post here with a lot of photos of this amazing attraction.

Sala-Keo-Ku-Nong-Khai-Thailand-7
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2
. Markets. I’ve previously detailed the Saturday Night Market as well as Tha Sadet market. If you’re only coming to Nong Khai for a few days plan it so that you are here over a weekend. We love the Saturday market.

girl-selling-t-shirts
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3
. Wat Pho Chai is the main temple in Nong Khai and is worth a visit. It is a bit of a walk from the center (it took us about 30 minutes) and it is worth taking a tuk-tuk (60 Baht).

Wat Po Chai
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4
. Walk the 2.3 km down the river to Phra That Chedi. You’ll get good views of the river, see some pretty temples, and get a feel for the town outside its center. Late afternoon is best. You’ll see photos along this route on this post.

promenade-Nong-Khai-2

Phra-That-ChediNong-Khai
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5
. Visit some of the colourful temples in central Nong Khai. Wat Sri Muang, Sala Jao Phu Ya(the Chinese temple listed on the map at the top), and Wat Tung Sawang are worth a visit.

temples in nong khai
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6
. Take a cruise on the river. Leaves at 5pm every day from Mut Mee, lasts an hour and costs 100 baht.
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7. Visit the aquarium. We didn’t go but have been told it is worth a visit, especially if visiting with kids.
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Reminder: Before getting into a tuk-tuk make sure to negotiate the price beforehand.

The top 3 above are ‘must do’s, along with just walking along the promenade and enjoying the views and peacefulness of the river. This was for us was the highlight of Nong Khai and the reason why we fell in love with the town.

 

We hope this helps. Feel free to give us your thoughts on Nong Khai. We always appreciate any information that may help us as well as readers of the blog.

 

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Comments

  1. Very informative. More comprehensive than LP!!

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you Stephen. Hope it’s helpful to people who don’t know much about Nong Khai. I know before coming here I couldn’t find photos or good info anywhere. Between the guide and all the photos I think you can get a sense of what a pretty little town it is.

  2. What a gorgeous place! I’ve not been to Thailand for a few years…I think it’s almost time to go back!
    Corinne recently posted…Weekend Travel Inspiration – Rosita ForbesMy Profile

  3. We have to go to Vientiane for a visa and you’ve convinced us through your photos that we should visit Nong Khai. We’re planning to spend a few days there at the end of April and will follow your suggestion to do it over a weekend. Thanks for the helpful guide and all the great photos on previous posts!

  4. Oh, my God, what a beautiful warm weather. I miss it.
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  5. I spent 2 minutes trying to pronounce the name of this place before giving up! 🙂
    Natalie recently posted…Gertrude Bell : Follow Her Footsteps in TurkeyMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Nong Khai is pretty easy…just drop the ‘h’ which is silent. But a lot of Thai names almost impossible for me to remember (like the airport in Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi) and it’s compounded by the fact that many places are translated with 3 or 4 different spellings and resulting pronunciations…

  6. Guemlum says:

    Nice little post here. You have captured the basics for anyone travelling through Nongkhai, but I’m surprised that in the 4 months you were there, you haven’t captured or named any of the restaurants or accommodation or even the surrounding sites that make Nongkhai and the Nongkhai province what it is famous for. Having said that, great for those who have never visited Nongkhai.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you, I guess. I don’t understand your comment – if you’ve read the above I’ve gone into detail on the restaurants and accommodations. And I may not have covered all of Nong Khai province but the focus was on Nong Khai proper. But feel free to add any recommendations that you think I may have missed…

  7. Hey Frank, I pretty much agree with Guemlum. As I was reading your post, my thought was it’s great, you’ve covered the town centre in great detail but there are so many places absent from your comments that fall within the ambit of the city. My guess is that you were either walking or using samlaws which is why you were restricted in range/budget. A bicycle would probably be worthwhile to get further afield, especially if you are planning to visit in terms of months rather than days or weeks. When you do come back I hope we’ll be able to meet up and exchange information.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Appreciate your comment Tony and I checked out your site. And while I appreciate that there are places outside the town center for us the attraction of Nong Khai is the promenade and the sites in the center. The majority of people reading this blog will be short-term travellers passing through or those with a bit more time on their hands who decide that they’d like to stay in Nong Khai for a month or two. I would say this accounts for at least 95% of travellers who make it to Nong Khai. I can’t honestly recommend to those people that they stay anywhere than Central Nong Khai, more specifically around the promenade (too many people staying out near the Tesco Lotus where they’re seeing the ugliest part of town).

      We did tons of walking and exploring while in Nong Khai. If/when we came back and decided to stay longer we would probably try to find an apartment along Rimkhong heading out to Phra That Chedi. We enjoyed walking this stretch and I could see us settling there as Expats with, as you say, our own wheels. Lots of nice restaurants and cafes (and I’m assuming this is the area that you and Guemlum are referring to). But honestly, I’m not going to recommend a short-term traveller to stay out there. This post was not geared towards Expat living in Nong Khai.

      I would however be open to any Expat who wants to contribute an ‘Expat Guide to Nong Khai’. For example, we asked around about longer-term apartments, something a bit more upmarket than Pikul with a functioning kitchen. A few expats we met were nice enough to say they’d ask around but nothing concrete ever came out of it. We also went to a few Expat bars and restaurants. They didn’t make it on our favorite’s list however. My experience is that Expats love to complain about contributions such as mine but are awfully short on helpful advice (sorry Tony, this is not necessarily directed at you. Unlike your friendly comment I’ve received some really nasty comments from know-it-all Expats in the past). My challenge – if someone wants to contribute an “Expat Guide to Nong Khai” containing helpful advice I would be happy to publish it on this site. I would give credit and a link as I do with my Destination Guides written by others.

      But again, the above post was geared towards the traveller passing through for a few days or considering a stay for up to a couple of months.

      Thank you for your comment Tony. If/when we come back to Nong Khai I’ll definitely take you up on your offer.
      Frank (Bbqboy)

  8. Hey Frank,
    Thanks for the detailed comment, I agree that what you’ve written is perfect for the short stay visitor.
    I wonder whether our paths may have crossed already as I live just off Rimkong Road at the Phra That Chedi end, more or less opposite the sunken temple. Jo Steak & Bar should definitely have been on your list, likewise Krua Ban Nat. I just reviewed it for Trip Advisor.
    There are definitely places that would suit you for a longer stay a little out of the town centre complete with kitchen facilities. If/when you decide to visit let me know in advance and I’ll put out some feelers.
    Best Regards Tony

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Tony. We might have crossed paths, it’s a small town 🙂 Yes, I thought you may be down at that end, pretty spot that we enjoyed.
      Thanks for the recommendations, appreciate as it may help readers of the blog.Always hard finding a good steak in Thailand!
      Best Regards,
      Frank

  9. Wow, such a comprehensive guide to Nong Khai you’ve written, and the pictures are beautiful! I’ve never heard of Nong Khai, and now I want to go there! People will truly appreciate reading this while they make their travel plans.

    Thank you ever so much for the gorgeous post card! It’s a real gem, and will go very nicely into my collection.

    Best wishes to both of you.
    Carol
    (sunny Vancouver day today.. 18c – my 2 pugs are happily sunning themselves out on the deck.)

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thank you for the comment Carol!

      Wow, sounds gorgeous in Vancouver. One of my favorite cities and we may get there later this year. Congratulations on getting spring while my friends back east still in a deep freeze.

      Always happy to send you a postcard 🙂

  10. Useful article – and lovely photos. Great recommendations, as well!
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  11. Nong Khai Silverback says:

    Hello Frank: Thanks for your comprehensive review of central Nong Khai. Your map of the area is one of the best I’ve seen. For the short term traveler you have hit the nail on the head as life in central Nong Khai revolves around the Mekong River, the Promenade along the river, the Tha Sadet Market, and the Saturday Night Walking Street which is located on the Promenade. Because most of the guesthouses in Nong Khai are geared to the short term traveler, they do not have kitchens. Therefore, the ex-pats who enjoy cooking for themselves tend to rent a house or purchase a hotplate for cooking in a corner of their guesthouse room. While many of the ex-pats live outside of the central area they tend to gravitate toward the center of town for a cold drink or a good meal. As you know, I’ve lived at the Pikul Apartment Hotel for the past five years and it is home to me. I can walk or bicycle any place I need to go in Nong Khai. All of the restaurants you mentioned are open for business and doing well. If any of your readers have questions about Nong Khai, pass them along to me and I’ll do my best to provide an honest answer.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks so much Bart for your input. One of the things we really miss about Nong Khai is your restaurant (Macky’s for those who don’t know). Loved sitting there on Saturday nights watching the action.
      The one thing I think holding us back from spending more time in Nong Khai is the accommodation situation. Pikul is fine for short-term, especially as a single male. But as a couple we would have loved finding something a little more comfortable, with a small kitchen, in the center. As you said, expats mostly live just outside the center for the comfort. But that means needing wheels and since Lissette doesn’t ride a bike that doesn’t work…
      But I have to say, especially today looking out the window in Romania where it is getting cold, that I have pangs about Nong Khai. Miss the food, the people, and the peaceful river views.

  12. Thanks for putting Nong Khai on our radar, we are regular visitors to Thailand but not ventured that far north as yet. Great post, very informative, thanks for sharing!
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  13. Michael W says:

    Thanks so much for that. I am in Nong Khai now.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Great to hear! Let me know if you have any feedback or if anything has changed. Funny enough, Bart from Macky’s Riverside Kitchen wrote me today – if you ever go (and it’s our favorite restaurant) please say hi to Bart from us and tell him we sent you!

Thanks for reading! Feedback is always appreciated!

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