My wife & I spent 4 months in SE Asia in 2009-10. Included in that time were 6 weeks in Thailand. We are to return in late January for the first time since and wish to explore and experience a couple of areas we didn't have time for back then. This time we only have 2 and a half weeks though - back to more standard holiday times.
Our plan is to spend a few nights in the Isaan to get a small flavour of the place. Then to end up in Prachuap Khiri Khan (a favourite we wish to re-visit) and Ko Tao.
For the Isaan we wish to stay 2 or 3 nights in Nong Khai and then about the same in Chiang Khan. It appears there is no public transport between the two. Is renting a car in NK a viable option ? Would a taxi be prohibitively expensive ? Are these 2 places good choices to give us a taste of the Isaan ? Any places you feel we shouldn't miss ? Any recommendations on somewhere to stay in Chiang Khan ? We don't need anywhere flash, but would prefer good, clean accommodation. Hot water would be good, for example, a comfortable bed (sadly we are no longer 21) - attached bathroom a definite bonus, though if somewhere is special we'll do without. (well...perhaps not the bed).
For the Gulf part I think we will fly to Samui and come back via PKK. (Or vice versa). There are a number of daily trains from Bangkok down the Gulf coast. Does anyone know if they all stop at Prachuap ? Or are there regular buses between Bangkok and Prachuap ?
My preference (I think) at present is to fly to Samui and catch the ferry same day to Ko Tao. When we leave Tao go by hydrofoil to Chumpon (gets in at 11.45 it seems) and then catch the train (12.46) northwards - hopefully to get off at Prachuap. I assume this works -can anyone confirm ?
Finally, (for now) do the ferries/hydrofoils always sail at that time of year, or can weather be an issue ?
Thanks for any help you can give.
Why Chiang Khan? I mean, it's just another Ampur. Why that place, as oppossed to others? You can get a bus from Nong Khai to Chiang Khan, for sure, since it's an Ampur in a neighboring Jangwat. so I am sure you can go to the bus station in Nong khai and get from A to B. But why?
My understanding is that Chiang Khan is a lovely, old peaceful place with beautiful wooden buildings overlooking the river. But I've never been - so I can't be sure its special. If I manage to get there I'll let you know if I consider it worthwhile. Do you have other recommendations, Mac ? Apparently there is no bus there from Nong Khai, hence the question about carhire etc. Another option may be to take day trip up there from NK - I'm trying to get a flavour of the area currently.
Prachuap we liked as it is a simple, seaside Thai town - nice beach just outside town, good places to stay, relatively few other tourists. Prices way lower than the islands. No good if you like karaoke bars, nightclubs, late night bars.
from photos & Thai language blogs & magazine articles i've seen, on weekends & public holidays during the cool season, domestic (Thai) tourists flock to Chiang Khan & are making it look like Luang Prabang...somehow there's huge this interest in morning almsgiving in Chiang Khan too (don't know why they don't have this interest when they travel to other parts of Thailand or Laos).
Tilapia wrote a very good overview of Chiang Khan in #5 here: https://www.travelfish.org/board/post/thailand/16281_mukdahan-hotel-options-and-isaan-itinerary
I would imagine you could take a bus from Nong Khai to Loei and from there a bus or Song Taew to Chiang Khan. But given your objective of just getting a feel for Issan, it would seem to me that simply head to someplace like Sakrai or Na Kha to give you a feel for a typical Issan Ampur. Those locals won't be as scenic as Chiang Khan, but they will likely be more representative - if that is a desire (maybe not - I'm inferring here). They are also on your way back, so from there it would be easy to get to Udon Thani and from there back down south.