Thailand's North-East

SANG KHOM

Global Mark : 13.89    Top Ten : No9 (down)

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
5 5 2 2 3 2 5 2 5 13.78

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
3 100% (3) 100% (3) 100% (3) 12 to 15 14.00


Description :
  A small village by the Mekong with laid back locals and a few natural attractions 

Comments : The place is becoming popular with backpackers who come here to relax on a hammock by the river and, if getting up, explore the countryside.

What to do ? Do nothing but do it by the river / Sweat on the road then splash at waterfalls / Fight your way up inside the forest to a magnificent "wow !" panorama / Visit well shaded temples / Get inside caves / Easily make local friends / Eat banana directly from the trees / Sneak inside Laos to drink Lao beer or visit the island / Explore !

What you may not like ? The limited number of good bikes available as some GH have cancelled this service / The fair distance toward any natural attraction / Not having much to do in town / Not being able to spot the sunset over the Mekong from your bungalow / The empty Temple at the top of the hill / The humidity level during rainy season / The likely future busyness in HS / The low level of water at some waterfalls during the dry season and some rubbish at others / The roads with little shape & some steep parts / A few noisy speed boats on the river / 

How long ? How long will it take you to complete your nothing-to-do tasks ? The surroundings attractions would require 2 days minimum. 


Where to stay ? All the below places offer bungalows w. mosquito nets by the Mekong.

- Inside the village, where the bus naturally stop, from east (Nong Khai) to west :

  • River Huts GH / Hawaii owner / Bungalows 80(1) or 100(2) / Good but pricey restaurant (Pad Thai or fried rice at B45 !) / Internet on request / Go there for the central location and the nice setting within a big garden / What you may not like : the basic furniture, the light half in & half out, the three parts mattress and the proximity of the bungalows 
  • Bouy GH (042 441065), 50m to the west / Local owner w. good English level / Bungalows 80(1) or 90(2) / Go there for the nicest setting on a quiet peninsula accessible by a wooden bridge, the far between bungalows & the cheapest price for two / What you may not like : loosing a bit of serenity during the HS
  • Mama's Riverview Lodge, another 50m / Bungalows 80(1) or 100(2) / Basic Bike B40 per day / Go there for the slightly bigger bungalows, the hammock on the terrace, the free fruits (banana, papaya, pineapples) and to meet Mama ! / What you may not like : the not so clean area, the obstructive banana trees in front of the Mekong and the dim lightning in the bungalows

- A few km on the east (before the village if coming from Nong Khai :

  • Pak Som GH (042 441017), at Ban Pak Som, 3km from Sang Khom / Bungalows 100 (1 or 2), nicer w. shower B250 / Local people w. limited English / Go there for the nice flowered garden, the good view over the river, the clean comfortable bungalows, the relative isolation from other westerners in a tiny village and the probable discount after negotiation / What you may not like : the distance from Sang Khom, the tiny space and getting confirmation that local people indeed use the area in the evening to consume Yaba, the drug which drives crazy.
  • Siam Bungalows (042 441399), 300m west of the above / French owner w. family / Bungalows w. HW shower w. private garden or terrace on the Mekong 350, w. cold shower or HW common shower 250 / Pool table / Good mountain bike B50 per day / Satellite TV / Free map / Go there for the only luxury option in the village and that great bungalow overlooking the Mekong / What you may not like : the prices & the remoteness (2km away) 
  • Dee Daeng GH (041 441077), 500m west of the above, 1.2km from market, opposite PTT petrol station / Belgium owner w. wife / Bungalows w. shower B180 / Motorbike B200 or B170 for guests (short time use free) / Free map / Go there for the intimate size (4 bungalows only), the relative isolation, the good view and to get in touch with the river as the water reach the bungalows during the rainy season / What you may not like : sometimes hearing the traffic on the road. 

Where to eat ? A few local restaurants on the main street. For better atmosphere by the Mekong, Poo-Pae Restaurant (no English sign), in the eastern part of town (5mn walk from River Huts) offer an extensive menu with B50 dishes but also good fried rice at B20-25. 

Internet ? So far, River Huts is the only place connected but it is more for a personal use. On request, it should be OK but expensive. Siam Bungalows may get a computer in the future as well. 

Bike or motorbike ? Siam rent the best mountain bike by far for B50 per day but has got three only. Mama has got old bikes for B40. And that was unfortunately all about it ! Motorbike cost around B200 per day. 


Half a day at an impressive waterfall ? If you should see only one, go for Na Yung Waterfall : a powerful 17m high drop with water all year round, good view from the top, smaller waterfalls up the river, nature foot walks to come down via a different way and not too many tourists yet (should however change soon as they were busy building infrastructures). Na Yung Nam Som Forest Park is accessible via Na Yung Village on road 2376 : according to the unreliable Thai signs, it is 35km away but someone who did the trip on motorbike recorded 19km only. As for me, I reached it on a good bike within 75 minutes and would estimate the distance at 29km : 22 km to Na Yung, 5km to reach the signboard (turn right at the bridge) then another 2km on the path. Coming back, beware : there is no sign in any language for the road to Sang Khom from Na Yung (the one going up on the right) so it is easy to continue straight on the main road and add like I did another 30 km to your legs... Biking or motor biking are the best options as there is no public transport & vehicles to hitch are rather rare. 


Other waterfalls ? 
- Than Thip Water Fall : with its 10m drop it should be impressive enough, at least when there is water ! This phenomenon is most likely to happen at the end of the rainy season only (Sept & Oct). Take the road toward Pak Chom (therefore possible to reach by bus) for about 16km then a path for 3km. 
- Tan Thong Waterfall : this small 3 steps waterfall is scenic between May and November. As it is a favorite with local people, expect rubbish all around. If you go, avoid WE. It is 11 km toward Si Chiang Mai and is difficult to miss...

A beer in Laos ? The opposite island belongs to Laos so it is of course illegal for foreigners to put a foot on it. In practice however, nobody seems to care and you can easily charter a boat, visit the island for around B40 (Lao Beer extra)

A great panorama ? Then head toward the temple you can spot on the 900m or so high hill at the eastern part of town ! Heading toward Si Chiang Mai, there will be a small path on the right 10 meters before the km sign "37/52" (about 3km out of town). Turn left after the water ponds, deep inside babana trees. There will be an house where you can leave your bike. The climb up should take between 20 to 50 minutes. As it is in the wild and you need to get down, bring your good shoes ! The temple at the top is a disappointment but you really should not care ! Sunset on clear days should be magnificent but you may wish to be safely down before the night... This incredible view point is apparently also accessible on a flat road from Tan Thong Waterfall area but distances won't be the same. 

 << Discover some natural sights



Leaving Sang Khom ? The green bus No507 is regularly seen in town, at least every hour in each direction from around 6:30 to 18 (see the departing schedules at Nong Khai or Loei to calculate the arrival time but buses also leave from Si Chiangmai or Pakchom). During WE, the wait between buses can increase to 1.5 hours. It cost B30 to Nong Khai (2.5 hours) or B25 to Pak Chom (1.5 hour). From there, you can get songthaew to Chiang Khan (easier before 2pm, B18). Buses for Loei should arrive at around 8, 9, 10, 11:30 and maybe 12:30.


The trip to Chiang Khan via Pak Chom : SSSSS / R / B25 + B18 / 1.5 hrs + 1.5 hrs / Fan bus + Songthaew
A beautiful journey which started with an ugly perspective of the main road for more than one hour while waiting for the 6am bus from Nong Khai. It eventually arrived at 9:10, a real performance considering there are 98 big kilometers to cover...
The bus was green so it was no surprise that most of the seats looked designed for dwarfs with no legs. Fortunately, a few offered more space. Sitting behind the driver's personal horn also prevented me from falling asleep and tragically miss parts of the Mekong sceneries.
I had been told the cost would B15 so when the ticket guy charged me B25, the discussion became animated. It reached its paroxysm after I noticed that passengers picked up a couple of km later were asked B15 only. I was wrong off course : those guys got off a couple of km before Pak Chom. Still, I suspect that the normal price should be B20. Argue if you wish to get distracted from the scenery...
We arrived in Pak Chom, 63 km away, after only 1.5 hours. Truly, the bus had now warmed up and it was going full speed between the numerous stops, some 10 meters apart... 
Pak Chom looked pleasant enough so people with time should consider spending some time there (at least one GH with bungalows by the Mekong at B80-100). 
As for me, I was attracted by the empty songthaew waiting at the empty Bus Station. Those are apparently from a genetically modified specie : they leave on schedule (at least in the morning every hour from 11 to 14), do not wait for passengers around the corner from the station and use all the gears. 
Couple of km away, Khok Pai Custom Boundary Post offered a scenic view on the river as well as cargo ferries from Laos. But it you were sleeping at that time, do not worry : the view is great all the way ! It unfortunately take just over one hour only to cover the 39km...

See also the trip from Nong Khai