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The major Thai border town along the Mekong River, NONG KHAI is still a relative backwater but developing fast since the construction of the huge Thai-Australian Friendship Bridge over the river. Just 24km from the Lao capital, Vientiane, Nong Khai is busy with Thai and Lao traders, who pass between the two cities freely. As with most of the towns along this part of the Mekong, the thing to do here is just to take it easy, enjoying the riverside atmosphere and peaceful guest houses. Before you lapse into a relaxation-induced coma though, try joining a floating restauarnt boat tour, or make a day-trip out to see the bizarre Buddhist sculptures at Wat Sala Kaeo Kou.
The most pleasant place for a stroll is the riverside area. Although built-up in the centre around Tha Sadet, it becomes rustic and leafy around the fringes, which are often busy with people bathing, washing their clothes and fishing, especially in the early morning and evening. If you're lucky, you might also catch sight of a sunken stupa at the far eastern end of town, Phra That Nong Khai, which slipped into the river in 1847 and has since subsided so far that it's only visible in the dry season; this is thought to be a particularly good spot to see naga fireballs, said to be produced by the naga that guards the relic in the stupa.