Nong Khai lies on the Mekong River, which forms the northeastern border of Thailand. Nong Khai is the site of the first Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, spanning the river to Laos. Laos’s capital, Vientiane, is 25km away.
The Mekong River is the primary home of the Phaya Naga. Thai cities often have “mascots”, and the mascot of Nong Khai is clearly the Phaya Naga. A pair of really excellent Phaya Naga welcome you to the city (above).
A pair of equally outstanding, and very large, Phaya Naga greet you at the Mekong River (below).
A big draw for Nong Khai is the Naga Fireball Festival held during Buddhist Lent at the end of October, when Naga fireballs are said to be most common. Fireballs resembling an orange sun, varying in size from sparks to basketball sized orbs, rise from the Mekong River to as high as hundreds of feet into the sky.
Naga fireballs are believed by some to be exhaled by Phaya Naga. I wish I had attended the festival, in part because I find it surprising that it seems to include fireworks, suggesting a lack of concern with really knowing what you’re seeing. Thai people do love the supernatural, and love seeing Naga fireballs during the festival.
The video below examines the scientific and supernatural views on the Naga fireball phenomenon.
Sala Kaew Ku is Nong Khai’s other big draw. The most photographed sculpture at Sala Kaew Ku is probably Sulilat’s unique, and enormous, take on the Naga Buddha.
Along the Mekong River there are all forms of Phaya Naga, like the ones that top the lamp posts.
Phaya Naga also adorn the fence along the river.
Looking across the Mekong into Laos you can see a fairly nice temple complex.
You can also see a number of houses. They look similar to houses in northern Thailand.
There are house boats along the Thai side of the river.
The Thai-Lao Friendship bridge was largely funded by a gift to the Lao government from the Australian government. The picture below shows the bridge in the distance, and also some fairly large house boats.
Several temples are among the buildings lining the Thai side of the river.
They include a Chinese style temple.
Nong Khai has an aquarium that features some of the surprisingly large fish found in the Mekong River.
It’s a small aquarium, but it does feature a shark tunnel. This is the first I’ve seen, so I can’t offer a comparison. Flash photography is prohibited in the aquarium, but I was able to shoot video.
Please enjoy the full gallery of 16 pictures below.