Mar 12, 2020
Drawn to Nong Khai, Thailand
Location : Nong Khai, Thailand
My abrupt departure from Vientiane left me a few options on the next destination. Udon Thani was appealing and close by. Bangkok was viable, if I could get barter lodging at Adventure Hostel. And of course, Chiang Mai always has its doors open. But this obscure border town, Nong Khai, was calling my attention. For what reason? I don't know. But lodging was prohibitive, starting at B220. Usually, I bypass these destinations. What exactly is in Nong Khai? I don't even know the first thing about it. I bit the bullet and took my chance.
In Search of Lodging
Crossing the Friendship Bridge from Laos, I was already in Nong Khai, Thailand. From the bridge, I walked towards the town center, talking to every lodging place for a good deal, either daily or monthly. The usual price was B400/day. For monthly rentals, the lowest I got was B4500. My max budget was only B3500. Yes, even though I didn't know anything about Nong Khai, I was prepared to stay there for a month - just based on the fact that it called my attention. After walking one km with my heavy backpack, I realized that I miscalculated the map scale. I was still 3 kms away from Nong Khai city center. I had a little food at a roadside resto, befriended the owner, and asked if I could leave my backpack - that I would come back later to pick it up. They said ok. I just love the Thais for their kindness. I continued my walk for 3km more, stopping by every hotel but still nothing - until I arrived at Mut Mee Garden Guest House.
Mut Mee Garden Guest House
The cheapest lodging I saw in Agoda was Mut Mee Garden Guest House - B220. Already, I thought it was a dorm room with bunk beds. But when I arrived, the place was much more than what I expected. I got a private room with shared bathroom. The hotel rests on a sprawling space clustered by bungalows and pavilions in a garden setting. It has good energy to it - yoga center, bookstore and restaurant (w/ vegetarian offerings too). Both owners, Julian and Pao, are hands-on and interactive with hotel guests. Staying there simply changed everything about Nong Khai.
Upon checking-in, I asked to borrow the hotel bicycle and pedaled my way back to get my backpack. It was a very tiring day but I was just glad it ended well.
The Barter Deal
I would not be able to keep up with paying B220/day. I talked to the affable Julian and offered to recode the homepage of his website to make it responsive and to pretty-up the homepage using the trending design approach. He liked my Photoshop mock and agreed to let me stay with the use of the hotel bicycle. This was big for me. Without having to worry about lodging, I was free to explore and write about Nong Khai.
Pantrix Yoga Center
Surprisingly, there is a tucked-away yoga center within the hotel grounds, run by a yogic couple, Pancho and Beatrix, the Pantrix Yoga. There was no outdoor sign or any kind of promotion. I only saw a small note on one of the bungalows that they were on day 10 of a 30-day advanced yoga course. I met the teacher, Pancho, and we had a brief talk about our practice. He's not your typical yoga studio teacher - there's not a drop of Youtube or Facebook about him. He comes across as a guru in a hippie commune. I would often join their free unguided meditation sit every day at 2pm - that's how I met participants of the course, mostly outsiders who came there specifically for the course. I was curious about the advanced yoga course, but they didn't allow drop-ins.
I've already covered my bases for now. The rest is to simply explore Nong Khai and perhaps learn why it brought me here.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
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Next stop: Giant Mekong Catfish at the Nong Khai Aquarium
Nong Khai Map
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 -
Travel Tips for Thailand
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
This process is BEFORE Covid 19. Not sure what it is now.
- 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.
Book Train Tickets in Thailand
Book Train Tickets in Thailand Online by Train36.com
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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