June 18, 2020
Nong Khai - Chiang Khan Roadtrip
Route : Nong Khai to Chiang Khan (Loei), Thailand
No Bus for Chiang Mai (CNX)
Because of the COVID lockdown, bus services were cancelled indefinitely beginning in March. With a 2-week mandatory quarantine period upon arrival in any destination, everyone was practically stranded. But when things started to ease up in mid-May, it was also a good time to return to Chiang Mai and resume my life since the annual burning season has already ended. I checked the bus for Chiang Mai. There were buses for Bangkok and Rayong and immediate provinces, but no bus for Chiang Mai. They said CNX services resume in June 1. When June 1 came, still no bus for CNX. This time, they said the lone night trip violates curfew hours. That I should wait until curfew is lifted. In June 15, curfew was lifted. Still no bus for CNX. This time, they said July 1. I've had it. It was frustrating to be played like a yoyo. I was restless in Nong Khai after having stayed 3.5 months.
I never knew Chiang Khan existed until 2 guests at Mut Mee Guest House started talking about it - river town like Nong Khai, charming walking street, etc. That was it. For lack of another place that excited me apart from Chiang Mai, I thought I'd follow my travel instinct. I could have gone to Bangkok or Rayong but it didn't have enough pull on me. But there was something about Chiang Khan that was getting my attention. What? I don't know, but only one way to find out.
Direct Bus Route from Nong Khai to Chiang Khan
From my research, it was a challenge to get to Chiang Khan from Nong Khai. There is no direct travel route. I had to either take several bus trips to Udon Thani, then to Loei, then to Chiang Khan, or take the slow, dilapidated, and uncomfortable green bus along the winding Mekong route, get off at Pak Chom, take a bus towards Loei but get off at Ban That, and then take another bus to Chiang Khan. No wonder people don't go to Chiang Khan from Nong Khai!
Upon investigation at the bus terminal, it seems there's been changes. The 3 trips/day by the green bus have been reduced to 1 trip at 12 noon. Better, the stops indicated that from Pak Chom, it would go straight to Chiang Khan. Wow! That would reduce my travel time and effort by a lot! It was my green light to proceed with my plan. Not too many people know about this latest route - not even the hotel owner of Chill Pill.
The trip was definitely more scenic compared to going to Loei using the highway. Some sections were alongside the Mekong where you see its changing riverscape. It appears that the Mekong has more water in Nong Khai than here where it's upstream. The roads were paved, some double lanes, others 4 lanes. Towards Pak Chom and all the way to Chiang Khan, the trees lining up the road were lush and refreshing. Still, it was a gruelling 5-hour trip.
Interestingly, mid-way between Pak Chom and Chiang Khan, as I was the lone passenger left, the driver just pulled over into a residential garage and turned the engine off. Huh? Was he cutting trip since I was the only one left? No. He bid me to get my luggage and move it over to his nice Honda car. I guess he figured out that it was cheaper and more comfortable to drive the car to Chiang Khan instead of the big bus. BTW, he lived in that house. So, the trip all the way to Chiang Khan was in a comfortable air-conditioned car. Not bad. Despite being low on Baht, I tipped him extra. I'm alway generous to acts of kindness.
departure time: 12 noon (only one trip) from the Nong Khai bus terminal
duration: 5 hours
stops: Nong Khai (left 12 noon), Tha Bo (arrived 12:55 pm), Si Chiang Mai (arrived 1:25 pm), Sangkhom (arrived 2:35 pm), Pak Chom (arrived 4:05 pm) and Chiang Khan (arrived 5:05 pm)
Reaching Chiang Khan
Arriving in Chiang Khan at 5pm after a 5-hour road trip, I felt a little weary, but there was still enough time to walk about town after checking-in. It felt good being here.
I could have left Nong Khai earlier by taking any bus going anywhere. But I guess what kept me stuck was my apprehension of all the uncertainty that's out there during these COVID times. At Mut Mee, I was getting a very good deal. Would I be able to get this same deal elsewhere? I had to slap myself out of my hesitation.
What ever happened to the maverick traveler who braved crossing international borders with only $19 in his pocket? And here I am with enough money for a few more months, afraid to move from one province to another? Have I lost faith and trust on my benevolent universe? Have I become afraid and chose the safe route? I'm glad I caught myself veering into this madness.
As soon as I made the decision to leave Nong Khai, all the apprehension and hesitation disappeared. Positive signs sprinkled its way along the process - a new direct route from Nong Khai to Chiang Khan, cheap loding in Chiang Khan (B200/day). I was feeling excited again about writing a new chapter.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
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Chiang Khan Travel Information / Tips
About Chiang Khan
This single statement tells you a lot Chiang Khan: NOBODY LOCKS THEIR BICYCLES!!! Yes, it is a very safe place. Many foreigners don't even know this place exists, but it is popular to local Thai tourists (and Koreans, I was told). The main draw of Chiang Khan is the kilometer-long walking street and the promenade along the scenic Mekong River. The street is lined-up with hotels, boutiques, vendors, restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. The promenade is particularly charming to stroll about in time for the sunset.
Direct Bus from Nong Khai to Chiang Khan along the Mekong River
Before, there was no direct travel route. You either:
- take a bus to Udon Thani, another bus to Loei, and another bus to Chiang Khan
- or take the slow, dilapidated, and uncomfortable green bus along the winding Mekong route, get off at Pak Chom, take another bus towards Loei but get off at Ban That (village), and then take another bus to Chiang Khan. No wonder people don't go to Chiang Khan from Nong Khai!
As of June 18, 2020 (the trip I took), when things were beginning to normalize from the COVID pandemic, there seems to be a few changes.
- the 3 trips/day by the green bus (7:30am, 11:00am and 3:00pm) have been reduced to 1 trip at 12 noon
- BEST, the bus goes all the way to Chiang Khan. You don't have to get off at Pak Chom.
- Trip Details from the Nong Khai bus terminal
departure time: 12 noon (only one trip)
duration: 5 hours
Nong Khai (left 12 noon)
Tha Bo (arrived 12:55 pm)
Si Chiang Mai (arrived 1:25 pm)
Sangkhom (arrived 2:35 pm)
Pak Chom (arrived 4:05 pm)
Chiang Khan (arrived 5:05 pm)
Chiang Khan Attractions
- Walking Steet - animated street line with shops, hotels, restos, bars, cafe and buskers
- Promenade - planked walkway extending for kilometers with the Mekong River on one side and fancy hotels and restaurants on the other side
- Phu Thok view point - 7.5 kilometers from the town center towards the mountain, it reaches 480 meters and offers stunning view of the sunrise and mountain tops piercing through the low-lying clouds
- Kaeng Khut Khu - 5.5kms downstream on the Mekong from town center, the manicured park has life-like statues of masked characters celebrated during their Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival. It also has a 2-storie statue of the Jueng Khueng Dangdaeng, a Laos giant hunter who, as legend would have it, became part of the rocks sprinkled on the Mekong between Laos and Thailand
Chiang Khan to Loei by BusAt the Loei Bus Terminal (see map), there are numerous daily trips to Loei (en route to Nakhon Ratchasima): 6:30 am, xxxx am, . xxx hours, B38.
Chiang Khan Blogs by TheLoneRider
- Alms-Round (Sai Bat) with the Buddhist Monks of Chiang Khan Jun 21, 2020
- The Rapids of Kaeng Khut Khu, Chiang Khan Jun 20, 2020
- Ascending Phu Thok Hill Viewpoint Jun 20, 2020
- Chiang Khan Promenade by the Mekong River Jun 19, 2020
- Rummaging Through the Walking Street of Chiang Khan, Loei Jun 19, 2020
- A First-Timer in Chiang Khan, Loei, Thailand Jun 18, 2020
- Nong Khai - Chiang Khan Roadtrip June 18, 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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