For most of its modern existence, this territory fell within the boundaries of the Vientiane (Wiang Chan) kingdom, which itself vacillated between independence and tribute to Lan Xang and Siam. In 1827 Rama III gave a Thai lord, Thao Suwothamma, the rights to establish Meuang Nong Khai at the present city site, which he chose because the surrounding swamps (nong) would aid in the city’s defence.

When western Laos was partitioned off from Thailand by the French in 1893, the French demanded that Thailand have no soldiers within 25km of the river, and so the soldiers and administrators moved south and created Udon Thani, leaving Nong Khai’s fortunes to fade.

One hundred and one years later, the opening of the US$30 million, 1174m-long Saphan Mittaphap Thai–Lao (Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge) marked a new era of development for Nong Khai as a regional trade and transport centre, though it remains a small town at heart.