Hugging Thailand's border with Laos, the sleepy town of Nong Khai is a little slice of heaven. The vast and beautiful Mekong river separates the two countries with glistening golden-brown and copper colours. The pace of life is much slower than most other places we visited in Thailand and our time here was bliss. It's difficult not to get sucked into meandering strolls along the river and lazy afternoons sat in one of the lush green gardens alongside it. To top it off the people who live here are so friendly and welcoming too. We loved Nong Khai, here's some of our favourite things we got up to there to explain why.
Watched the Sunset in Awe
Night after night the sky never failed to amaze as it lit up with different colours. Framed by the silhouetted backdrop of Laos' treelined border, the sunsets in this place are nothing sort of magical. Wherever we were we made sure at sunset time we made it to the edge of the river to watch the beauty unfold. One night we were treated to an electrical storm in the distance and the blinding sheet and fork lightening had us transfixed.
Hit the Road on Two Wheels
Renting a bike (bicycle or scooter) for a day is fab way of exploring a little further out. We were here at the end of July and it was crazy hot so the best thing to do was get back in the shade between places as quickly as possible and we were able to do this much quicker on wheels than on foot! We rented bicycles for 24 hours for a couple of quid and explored all the backstreets. It was so much fun discovering hidden markets and yummy places to eat.
Took in the Sculpture Park Culture
5km from the centre on Nong Khai is Sala Keoku. The sculptures are giant, fantastical works of art inspired by both Buddhism and Hinduism. Before we went, one guy we met said the artist was like Gaudi on acid, he wasn't wrong. The place is so beautifully crazy. And if you go up to the top floor of the building on your right you will even be able to meet the artist in person. Mummified in an open tomb, he doesn't say much but rumour has it his hair has to be trimmed now and again to keep him looking presentable!
Stuffed Our Faces at a DIY Roadside BBQ
Come 5pm, the promenade along a stretch of the river transforms into a number of outdoor restaurants. After you are seated a bucket of glowing coals is nestled into a hole in the centre of your table. On top is what looks like a giant lemon squeezer and the edges of on it are filled with boiling water to cook your vegetables and noodles in, leaving the mound in the middle to act as a hot plate for your meat. A range of spicy sauces accompany the unusual feast and it of course tastes best washed down with a bottle of ice cold Chang beer.
Soothed our Souls with a Relaxing Massage
If you've not had a Thai massage before you should know that they are very different from Western massages. The masseur physical gets on the bed with you as they adjust their whole body to work out all those kinks and tensions. There's a great spot next to a bridal shop in the centre of this town where they really know what they are doing. We left after an hour feeling like we were walking on clouds. And the treatments are very reasonable at just over £4 each.
Got Lost in the Markets
There's pockets of both day and night markets that pop up all over the town where you can barter for everything from a pair of sunglasses to a live chicken. The street food stalls are plentiful and as well as the experience of authentic, flavourful Thai food, they are a good way of getting to know some locals. Be sure to try a spicy papaya salad!
So if you're passing this way over the first friendship bridge to or from Laos, stay a while and enjoy the scenery and laid back vibe. You won't regret it.