We were pretty glad to get out of Udon Thani, and only had an hour train to the border town of Nong Khai. Instantly we noticed that it had a very different vibe. Whilst there were still a good few old foreigners (especially at the foreign run bars around our hotel, featuring scantily clad and table dancing girls), most were travellers heading over the border to Laos.
Nong Khai is a long and narrow town hugging the banks of the Mekong River. A brand new (and in some places under construction) promenade runs along the river, with a large under cover market flanking the other side. We were lucky enough to arrive on a Saturday when the weekly night market took over a large portion of the promenade filled with every food imaginable. I’ve never eaten so much in my life, and felt like I ate Thailand’s entire pineapple harvest in one night!
Our time in Nong Khai was spent much as it was in Nakhon Ratchasima, with us wandering around the town whilst taking frequent breaks for aircon and smoothies along the way. We did plan to walk to the pedestrian lookout on the thai-Laos bridge, but some aggressive dogs and mad motorists made us change our minds. We also planned to check out the park, but again a pack of extremely aggressive dogs made us quickly do an about face. Fucking dogs.
Nong Khai has a really unique vibe. Part sleepy Thai town, part border town and hence short-term tourist hub, and part busy trade town. Walking through the market was the best example of this. At one shop you might see a couple of vendors watching TV or having a chat with each other or customers. Across the way there may be frantic haggling going on over bulk buying items, and then next door tourists trying to decide which souvenir to buy.
Tomorrow however, we are heading over the border to Laos. Which genuinely surprises me. We left Laos 5 years ago with a sour taste in our mouths, yet here we are returning. Should be interesting to say the least!