Mar 13 - June 18, 2020
Life in Nong Khai
Location : Nong Khai, Thailand
COVID 19 Lockdown
Shortly after arriving in Nong Khai, the Covid pandemic worsened. Computer models forcasted millions of death across the planet. Fear escalated into panic. To avert this catastrophe, businesses and schools were shut down, people were quarantined, social-distancing became a new buzzword in the English lexicon and life came to a screeching halt. I was stranded in Nong Khai. I intended to stay only a few days, but it ended up over 3 months.
I waited until the last few days before my April 10 visa expired, hoping that the much anticipated free 30-day extension would be given due to the border lockdowns. It has been bounced around for a long while already but it was all talk - nothing was happening despite long lines and chaos at the Immigration offices. On April 8, not wanting to do it on the very last day, I went to Immigration for the extension, hoping that it's free. To my chagrin, it cost me B1900. To add salt to injury, the following day, the 30-day free extension became official. Had I waited one more day, I could have saved B1900 - whoa, that's a lot of Khao Sois. What can I say? C'est la vie!
Fortunately, before my new visa expiry of May 10 was to transpire, Immigration issued a new policy to give a free extension to all foreigners until July 31, 2020. No need to show up at Immigration. This was their attempt to mitigate the confusion and enforce social distancing. It was a big sigh of relief to me. I was now looking at an additional 2 months of stay in Thailand. No rush to do anything else. I had time on my hands.
Homepage Work for Mut Mee Guest House
My barter deal with Mut Mee Guest House was to redesign their homepage and recode to make it responsive. Using a template I've worked on before, it would have been an easy job. But the owner wanted all existing links on the current homepage to be included in the new homepage. That meant more content than the template could take. I had to modify and that brought with it all the headache and the delays. A standard template may look good on the browser, but if you look at the code, it's usually a basket case. A program usually generates the code for these templates, factoring-in added codes to compensate for any imperfection of the author. Thus you may end up with layers upon layers of code not really essential to the design of the template. At any rate, I was able to submit my work on time. Implementation? I don't know. The owner didn't seem to care.
Extended Stay at Mut Mee Garden Guest House
I was supposed to check-out April 10 for my visa expiry, but when I advised the owner of my scheduled check-out, he generously said I could stay for a while and not to be worried. That turned out all good with my extended visa to May 10. Later on, I was asked to pay B50/day to cover their expenses - which was still generous. The hotel was practically shut down with staff cut to skeletal size. Only stranded guests were allowed to stay. I tried to help out as well.
But now that I've finished the work of converting the Mut Mee homepage to be responsive, I could begin new and exciting projects - hand-code a web template on my own so that I know every single line of code. This way, I can modify at will with confidence and ease. Another project could be learning Thai. Or deepen my yoga practice by reading up on the masters. I was at ease and not rushed - that was what mattered at the moment.
(May 23, 2020) Saturday Night Market opened up. This is a strong statement towards normalcy. It was livening to see people come out. The street fair felt alive again with vendors of all kinds lining up the promenade while people browsed, ate, and leisurely walked, enjoying this new sense of freedom.
Green Light on Chiang Mai
I had been wanting to leave Nong Khai for Chiang Mai since early May when the burning season in Chiang Mai was over. Mike also gave me the green light to come. Even though the hotels remain closed, he said I could continue to stay at Nawa Saraan. I told him not to pay me - just to make things clear. He's hurting enough paying overhead on 4 hotels and not realizing any revenue.
Stranded in Nong Khai
In mid-May, I was told at the bus terminal that services will resume in June 1. But June 1 came with no possible date for a bus to Chiang Mai. There were daytime buses for Udon Thani, Bangkok and Rayong though. With curfew in effect, the night bus for Chiang Mai was suspended until curfew is suspended. No word on when.
In the meantime, I tried visiting different cafes that opened up since the lockdown. I continued watching podcasts about Renegade Thinkers and learning a lot from their systems. Despite the restlessness, I tried to remain productive. To fill the social vacuum, I even tried Tinder, the dating app - not for dates but just to have conversation. I didn't pay for the extra features, so it came out useless. There was no social scene for me. No tourists to interact and the local Thais were an impenetrable wall. I simply took refuge to Youtube podcasts and my practice to remain productive.
Nong Khai is a good place to be stranded at during a lockdown. I can't complain about that. Food is good and cheap, I had a good lodging deal with Mut Mee Guesthouse, there was a daily meditation at Pantrix Yoga, I had a bicycle to go about town and I had the lovely Meking River and the promenade for my workout. But after more than 3 months with no definite bus schedule for Chiang Mai, it was time to move on. Any destination would be acceptable as long as I move on. For everything that Nong Khai lavished me, I am grateful.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
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Nong Khai Travel Information / Tips
Vientiane to Nong Khai by bus
At the Khua Din Bus Terminal, you can board the #14 bus bound for Buddha Park. It will make a stop on the Friendship Bridge border - 15 mins, B8000. Go to Laos Immigration to exit. Board the special bus to cross the Friendship Bridge, Kip 4,000 or Baht 20. It will stop at Thai Immigration. Get processed. From there, board a tuk-tuk for Nong Khai, 5kms.
Nong Khai Attractions
- Nong Khai Aquarium -
- Salakaewkoo (Wat Khaek) -
- Issan Rum Distillery -
- Wat Pho Chai -
- Lan Phaya Nak -
- Tha Sadet Market -
- Nong Khai Muay Thai Gym -
- Phrathat Bang Phuan -
Nong Khai Blogs by TheLoneRider
- Nong Khai - Chiang Khan Roadtrip June 18, 2020
- Life in Nong Khai Mar 13 - June 18, 2020
- Peoplescape of Nong Khai Jun 17, 2020
- Exploring Nong Khai's Cafe Culture Jun 10, 2020
- Nong Khai Street Art June 4, 2020
- Sirsasana A & B May 20, 2020
- Structured Water, Water Therapy and Nauli May 1, 2020
- Visiting the Salakaewkoo (Buddha Park) in Nong Khai, Thailand Apr 23, 2020
- Fitness in Quarantine Times Apr 20, 2020
- Covid 19: Lion - Buffalo Analogy Apr 13, 2020
- Covid 19 and the Conspiracies Mar - Apr, 2020
- Nong Khai with Cheng Mar 18 - Apr ???, 2020
- Covid 19 and Pranayama Mar 20, 2020
- Giant Mekong Catfish at the Nong Khai Aquarium Mar 19, 2020
- Drawn to Nong Khai, Thailand Mar 12, 2020
Travel Tips for Thailand
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
- Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
b) flight booking to Thailand
c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
d) filled-in tourist visa form
e) 2 passport pictures
f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
g) passport with at least 6 months validity
- After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
- NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.
60-Day Thai Tourist Visa
NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.
- bring the following to the Immigration Office:
a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
b) Baht 1900
c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
- submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
- when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
- when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
- when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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