Nong Khai

NONG KHAI

Knowledge Notes

  • Nong Khai is located near the Udon & Laos border. It takes approximately one hour from Udon airport to drive to Nong Khai. (Cost of van to Nong Khai from Udon airport: Approximately 700 baht)
  • It is not a typical tourist target compared to other Thailand destinations, which contributes to its unique and authentic Thai charm. However, it has become quite popular with the expats in more recent years.
  • In 2016, Nong Khai was declared the 7th best retirement destination in the world, according to America’s Modern Maturity magazine, for its low-cost and livable conditions, and relaxing nature.
  • It’s quite lovely to stay here during the Christmas/New Year season if you miss the wintry, chillier feel of this season back home.
  • Recommended accommodation: Nong Khai Park & Pool Resort, a lovely family-owned resort surrounded by trees and tropical flowers. Its welcoming and quiet environment will make you feel warm and in a state of relaxation. To increase that, you can relax by the pool or get in-room Thai massages in your own personal villa. The staff are also very helpful and accommodating.

Itinerary

DAY 1

1. Fill up with a Thai or Western-style food at Park and Pool’s breakfast buffet.

2. Arrange for a tuk tuk tour (Tuk tuks are usually available within 5-10 minutes) to take you to two of Nong Khai’s unique attractions:

  • Wat Kaek/Sala Kaew Ku: A Buddhist sculpture park with massive sculptures depicting various Buddhist figures or themes. This park is very unique and you will find yourself in awe of the attention to detail and greatness of these sculptures!

  • Wat Pho Chai: This temple is known for its legendary Buddha image and colorful wall murals. To read more about the legend and history, click here.

3. Visit Tha Sadet Market, also known as the Indochina market, an extensive market selling imported Chinese and Laotian goods. Try some Thai traditional coffee in a paper bag to take with you as you explore.

4. Enjoy Vietnamese food and some Vietnam-style tea at Café Viet along the Mekong (Has A/C, too!).

5. On your way back to the resort, ask to be dropped off at (or simply point to) the Nong Khai railway station. Across the street, on your way back to Park and Pool Resort, you will find an old train car that has been transformed into Nong Khai’s railway public library.

6. Weather permitting, take a dip in the pool before going to enjoy some homestyle Thai cooking at Kruua Kru Nong (The Kitchen of Teacher Nong), a homestyle Thai restaurant along the Mekong. Digest your food with an evening stroll, savoring the sights along the Mekong River.

DAY 2

1. Relax at the pool or pamper yourself with a massage for a day. Walk around the neighborhood and explore, stopping at some fruit stalls to buy some fruit or take pictures of the beautiful flowers that are native to this area.

2. In the afternoon, take a tuk tuk ride from Park &  Pool, to Nagarina restaurant across from Mut Mee guesthouse, which is the meeting point for a sunset cruise to the Thai-Laos Friendship bridge. You can order drinks and snacks on the boat, and chat with other tourists and locals as you listen to local Isaan music and observe the sparkling hues of the sunset reflected on the water.

3. For dinner, walk to a nearby popular Vietnamese restaurant, Daeng Namnueng. This place is almost always crowded and it is suggested to order dessert first (buua loy dessert or durian with sticky rice) because they run out fast! For dinner, order the Vietnames namnuang plate, consisting of DIY spring roll/lettuce wraps which you can fill with Vietnamese sausage, veggies and herbs, vermicelli noodles, along with peanut and chili sauces

DAY 3

1. Arrange for a driver prior to this day, as they will pick you up early (7:30 AM), costing around 3,300 baht to go to two very special destinations:

2. 1st stop: Wat A-hong Siliwas, a small Buddhist temple located in a serene setting with a Mekong River view of the Laos border (known as the “navel, or deepest point, of the Mekong”) and a giant rock garden. This point is also famous for the Naga Fireball festival.

3. Phu Tok (also known as Wat Jetiyakiri): 150 kilometers from Nong Khai, his is one of the most unique destinations in Thailand. It is a completely wooden monastery built on a mountain by Buddhist monks in the mid 20th century, and has been preserved for tourists to climb to the top for breathtaking sights of the countryside of Nong Khai. It may also make your heart race if you are afraid of heights, as the wooden boards creak as you make your way to the top. The location is known as the “stairway to heaven”, and the fearful trek is believed as a way to train mindfulness and overcome fear on the path to spiritual enlightenment. Read more about the history here, and you can find the directions to get you from Nong Khai to Phu Tok.

 

DAY 4

Take a day trip to Vientiane, Laos. It is easy to hop over the Thai-Laos friendship bridge for a day to go explore Laos.

A visa on arrival is 35 US dollars, and an extra 220 baht for the Thai/Laos immigration and customs fee. Once you cross over, there will be many drivers waiting to bargain a deal with you for a day tour. If you’re not as adventurous, then you can arrange from the Thai side for a driver to actually bring you through the visa process on the Thai side and then connect with a Laos driver once into Laos. You can rent a tuk tuk for a day and tell them the stops you wish to take, or have them design the trip for you!

The only other money you’ll be spending is minor admissions fees for the sightseeing sites, and for a taste of Laos food. Get your camera ready! – Here are the typical destinations on a day-trip to Laos:

  • Xiang Kwuuan Buddha Park
  • Prathat Luang (Golden Pagoda)
  • Wat Simuang (Temple of city pillar)
  • Pratuxai (Victory Monument)
  • Hor Prakaew (The Emerald Buddha Museum)

 

If you have more time to spend in Nong Khai:

1. Volunteer and give back to the community with one of these opportunities:

  • The Vocational School for People with Disabilities, a short walk from Park & Pool resort.

2. Be adventurous with your taste-testing skills and try some rare foods at the bustling Sunday walking market beside the Nong Khai railway tracks.

3. Depending on what month you end up in Nong Khai, you might be fortunate to experience one of their unique festivals, such as the Phaya Naga Fireball festival or the rocket festival.

 

Vachi Coffee Bar & Bistro (Yasothon)

Vachi Coffee Bar & Bistro in Yasothorn

วาชิ คอฟฟี่บาร์ยโสธร

Description:

“Great Coffee with Space for All”

Formerly known as ‘The Coffee Bar’ and located down the road (Soi Chaeng Sanit 1), this coffee shop recently moved to a new and larger location to accommodate its frequent guests and community space feel. It was renamed ‘Vachi Coffee Bar & Bistro’ for its expansion of serving cooked meals, along with its usual coffee and homemade baked goods. The name ‘Vachi’ is a combination of parts of the owner’s parents’ names and a nice homage to the root of why this coffee shop exists today. Its motto, “great coffee with space for all”, is the epitome of its purpose, aiming to serve guests from all backgrounds and give them a space where they can hang out, meet up with friends, or just be themselves…all while drinking great coffee and enjoying tasty bakery items!

Address & Social Media:

174/1 ถ.แจ้งสนิท อ.เมือง จ.ยโสธร 35000, Yasothon

Map & Directions

Facebook @Vachiyaso on Facebook/Messenger / Instagram ID: vachi_yasothon

Highlights:

  • Hours: Monday – Friday: 8AM – 7PM; Saturday: 9:30AM – 7PM; Closed on Sundays
  • Menu highlights: Americano coffee, Honduran latte, lemon poppyseed cake, apple crumble
  • “When you do the things that you love, it doesn’t feel like working”

Background Story:

An interview with Noon, the oldest sister of the 2 owners of the shop

Noon studied tourism at Oxford Brookes University for six years. While in Oxford, Noon applied to Starbucks and worked there for many years, eventually receiving a promotion to supervisor. Upon returning to Thailand almost a decade later, Noon had to pay off her Oxford scholarship and so, she was working a full time job and working at a coffee shop.

Working two jobs was tiring and she came to a point where she had to stop and rethink the direction her life was heading in. She thought back to when she worked at Starbucks in England and realized that she was really happy as a barista, being surrounded by people, talking and connecting with them all of the time.

Noon and her younger sisters, Nan and Nat, loved coffee and desired a place to hang out after work where they could relax and drink coffee. They figured that since they wanted this kind of space, others must want a good hangout place as well…

The original coffee shop started as “The Coffee Bar” and they eventually found a bigger space seven years later. Noon soon after decided to quit her job as a teacher of tourism and become a full time barista. One of her good friends was not surprised with her decision and told her that that when Noon was a barista, that was the time her friend saw her happy and being herself. This confirmed Noon’s decision to go forth with her bold decision.

There are a lot of coffee places in Yasothon, but Noon and her sisters agreed that they were all too small and not suitable for sitting for a long time or meeting up with friends. They wanted their coffee bar to be a space for all kinds of people wanting to come and sit and meet up with their friends. They wanted it to be the first place people stopped after work and before returning home for the day. That in-between place would be Vachi….”not just a coffee shop but a place for people”. Noon added that, “These days, drinking coffee is not just drinking coffee…It’s a lifestyle.” Most people like to spend their time in coffee shops, working, eating, drinking coffee, reading, meeting up with friends, etc.

Noon and her sister decided they would make their dream come true. It began from a dream and they built it from there…

Noon used her experience from Starbucks to get her business up and running. Sticking to their idea that their coffee shop would serve the needs of all kinds of people, they decided to have different types of coffee and price ranges that everyone could afford. They have your standard cup of coffee but if you pay a little extra, you get premium or drip coffee. You can get an espresso at the “speed bar” and drop coffee at the “slow bar”. 120 baht for a cup of coffee may sound like a lot, but it becomes popular – People love it and are willing to pay more! And this is the kind of specialty and quality coffee you cannot find anywhere else in Yasothon.

*Please note that you have to order at the counter. The sisters want to change the pattern of people sitting and someone waiting on them. (For those who don’t catch on, there are actually instructions posted on the wall of how to order at the counter.)

Noon is really into her barista work and spends most of her time in the bakery, whereas her sister, Nan, loves being involved in community work. Together, they make a great combination to produce the vision they have of a community-feel coffee space!

Vachi has its own coffee house blend. The beans come from Salotto coffee, which come from farmers which are part of the King’s project in Chiang Mai. They also have another coffee roaster from Khon Kaen, but the beans are from the island of Java in Indonesia. This roaster also imports coffee from Honduras and other countries, which they grow in Chiang Mai. (The Hondurian latte’s smooth and rich flavor will make you crave it and coming back for more!)

Noon mainly learned her barista skills from her years working at Starbucks. As for her baking talent, it seems to come naturally since she has only ever taken a basic baking class in Bangkok and the rest, she finds recipes on the Internet or in English cookbooks. She tries to reduce the sweetness and cater to the taste buds of Thai people. She has mostly learned by doing and the results…well, you’ll have to come test them yourself!

As for the new name, ‘Vachi’, it was her sister’s idea to combine parts of their mother and father’s names to create this unique-sounding name (Mom – ‘Vatcharee’ and dad – ‘Narongchai’). ‘The Coffee Bar’ was to generic for them, and this made it extra special. The sisters show gratitude for their parents in this way and recognize that they are here today because of their parents, that they received a great education because of their parents, and the opportunities they have today are owed to their parents. Consequently, Noon later found out from a Hungarian friend that ‘vachi’ means ‘dining’ in in Hungarian, and the sound ‘chi’ means ‘eating’ in Chinese or Japanese…She felt that serendipitously, these matched with the theme of their coffee bar.

Vachi’s décor is an industrial loft style, inspired by other coffee shops on Instagram and items bought on the Internet. The motorcycle on display is from their parents’ own motorcycle shop. The shop was designed by two friends, one an architect and the other an interior designer. Essentially, it is a “coffee shop for Yasothon people designed by Yasothon people”. Art created by local artists or family members bring life to the walls. There is also a section of shelves displaying local products that people can take home as souvenirs, such as the potato chips made by a friend’s sister.

The coffee shop has developed since its original start. In the original shop, which was smaller, they were limited by the number of tables and customers did not seem to have a lot of privacy. At first, Vachi did not offer food on its menu, only coffee, homemade drinks and bakery items. Frequent customers often asked when they would start serving food. After much popular demand, they recently launched their food menu, serving French fries and other snack foods.

Currently, business is doing quite well and better than before, despite the Thai economy’s rough state. Vachi gets passerby’s of tourists. A lot of foreigners come by during Christmas and New Year holidays, and during the rocket festival in the second week of May. The sisters are always trying to add new things to the menu and they offer a special menu every Saturday, that attracts a faithful following of Saturday “regulars”. The shop has also recently hosted their coffee roaster, who volunteered to come and host workshops about different types of coffee beans or drip coffee. The workshops have been garnering interest from locals wanting to gain more knowledge about coffee.

Looking forward, the sisters have a vision in the works of an upstairs workspace for people to meet, work, or create. They have already installed a large mirror to give it a “studio”feel, a place where people can show their talents in public, out in the open. They also wish to have an open gallery for local artists to hold exhibitions. One of the art pieces on Vachi’s main floor was painted by a local Yasothon artist upon the request of the two sisters. He studied drawing in university and has a large collection of art pieces. Apparently, he has a lot of talent but no place to share it. Artists like him could use the upstairs studio to share their work and inspire others.

After being away from her hometown of Yasothon, Noon yearned to return home. She thought it might be difficult to come back, or that she’d prefer life in Bangkok, but she soon realized that big cities like Bangkok are too busy and have too much traffic. Living in a small town in England and having been back home now for eight years, she got used to places where most faces are familiar, like in Yasothon. She enjoys seeing her friends and family every day…”It feels quite warm”.

Reflecting back on her previous work life, where she used to get migraines from working and complain often, Noon expressed the happiness that working in her coffee shop brings her.

“When you do the things that you love, it doesn’t feel like working”.

Noon shows up to work every day and feels like she’s with family. They spend a lot of time together, laugh together, and eat together. And she hopes her customers will be inspired to do the same with their friends and “great coffee” where there is “space for all” at Vachi.