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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Isan Province

THAILAND | Tuesday, 21 April 2009 | Views [2167] | Comments [3]

We decided to try Thailands rail system to reach our next destination of Phitsanulok. However, unlike in Indonesia we travelled in circumstances more befitting to our status, 3rd class. We soon realised that this is a perfectly comfortable way to travel in Thailand. The over the seat luggage racks weren't exactly made for our backpacks, but that was more of a problem for one of the locals, after i nearly dropped 18 kilograms on her head!

Our entertainment was provided by a group of young soldiers also in the carriage with us. Seeing 18 year olds drinking alcohol before 10am brings back university memories, and similarly they had no idea about pacing. They started off on large bottles of lager, before moving onto bottles of whiskey. As the 6 hour journey progressed they steadily got more and more lary, loud and boystorous, spilling drink and causing general disruption, smoking both normal cigarettes and those of a more illicit nature. 

When we arrived at our intended destination we started to get the impression that we were slightly off the beaten track. It wasn't until later in the evening while at a great night market

that we actually bumped into some fellow travellers, who said they were thankful they weren't the only travellers in town. We had some fantastic stick food

along with a take away drink Thai style.

We decided to head east into the Isan province, which is the least 'travelled' area in Thailand. The next morning (Jo's Birthday) we caught the local bus to the border town of Nong Khai, Happy Birthday Jo, your present...a 10 hour bus journey! We arrived at the local bus station and soon had to stand to attention for the Kings anthem, which was shorter than at the cinema and seemed to end abruptly.

One of the advantages of local travel rather than getting a tourist VIP bus is that you get to see a lot more of the small towns that travellers tend not to visit and get more of a feel for rural life. You also get to meet the locals and to see Thai food vendors at work. Along the route they get on the bus selling all kinds of snacks, including 4 hard boiled eggs on a stick, chicken on a stick, and by chicken I don't mean a piece of chicken I mean a whole flattened roasted chicken, along with the now normal takeaway beverage in a bag.

One disadvantage of local travel is that communication can be a little difficult. At one stop, having checked it was okay with the bus controller, Jo got off the bus for a pit stop. After she was out of view the bus driver starting to reverse out of the bay. Trying to get the attention of the controller and driver on a packed bus to tell them to stop was not easy, but thankfully Jo is still with me!

Nong Khai

After a long days travel, but one of the best road journeys we had done so far, with rolling hill scenery along the Laos border and great local life out of the windows, including more elephants to Jo's surprise, we arrived at our intended destination to celebrate what was was left of Jo's birthday. Nong Khai is mainly visited for the border crossing between Thailand and Laos, with the two countries seperated by the mighty Mekong river and Friendship bridge. We arrived in time to see a fantastic sunset looking over to Laos

and then headed to a floating resturant on the river to celebrate, with Jo enjoying a long awaited Singapore Sling, which had been too expensive for the budget in Singapore!

Along the river there is a promenade and many of the locals excercised here, whether it be thai chi or power walking, I even thought about going for a run (for all of about 2 seconds!!!)

Lots of people coming to Thailand from Laos had said how fantastic Laos was, but we decided not to cross the border here, as a change in our plans were afoot......For much of the trip we have wrestled with the decision of whether to go to Burma or not, in fact the decision of whether to go or not has been harder than the original decision to go travelling. After much soul searching and research in Nong Khai we finally made the decision to go. Without getting into politics and history, we understand that it is not the conclusion that everybody would come too, as there are many reasons not to go. It's an individual choice and going to a country with an oppressive military regime is not one we haven't taken lightly. If you want to discuss it with us futher offline then we would be happy to do so. Thus, this decision lead to us heading back to Bangkok to apply for visas. Rather than heading straight back we would traverse some of the Isan region and take in some of the road less travelled.

Isan Province

We followed the Mekong River around the east coast taking in the spectacular sights of the hills of Laos,

stopping at the towns of Nakhon Phanom and Ubon Ratchanthani, before taking the cheap local bus to Bangkok. This turned into a 16 hour journey rather than the 8 hours the VIP bus would have taken. After driving 5 hours north in the opposite direction the bus thankfully then headed south, but it meant we had seen practically every town in the region. This was our 9th bus journey in 10 days. So I feel we know a bit about local bus travel. Something about bus travel that may only be interesting to me:

1) It's cheap

2) Bus stations and stops are provided, but the bus will stop for anyone anywhere on route that asks to be picked up

2a) To suggest that you want to be picked up stand on the side of the road and the bus driver will beep his/her horn twice, if you signal back the bus will stop if you don't they will continue on their way 

3) You can also get off dropped off anywhere on route

4) Local buses take a lot longer than tourist buses

5) There is no such thing as a full local bus, when you think it's full, another 10 people manage to squeeze on!

On our 9 local bus journies we encountered no fellow 'travellers'.

Bangkok

We arrived back in Bangkok late at night, but not late enough to get 2 sleeps for the price of 1! However, this time we headed to Soi Rambuttri which is less busy than Khao San Road. We had to change hotel late one evening as we had our first encounter with bed bugs crawling all across the mattress!

We arrived at the Myanmar (Burma) Embassy to find out that there was a 12 day turn around due to weekends and a 3 day national holiday, celebrated through out most of South East Asia. Rather than heading elsewhere we decided Bangkok would be as a good place as any to join the festivities and have a break from the road. In Thailand the new year festival is known as Songkran, and as well as being a religious festival it is known for its water fights. During Songkran anyone is fair game. You can't move without being drenched. Street Vendors sell water guns to the tourists while the more savvy Thai's fill small buckets with ice cold water. Thankfully the weather was scorching and a little drenching was a nice relief, the first few times!

On one of a ventures further a field we saw the protesting 'red shirts' that we had seen on our previous visit to Bangkok, but this time there were a couple of tanks on the street around the rally. There was no incident, but it was obviously the start of the build up to the riots and protests of the next few days that thankfully we were no where near.

Having spent over 2 weeks in Bangkok and becoming experts in the river ferry system

we finally got our Visas with no issues and have booked our flights to Burma, so that's where we are heading tomorrow. We are not sure how easy it will be to email and blog but hopefully you will hear from us soon.

Hope you're all well

Ryan & Jo

Tags: bangkok, isan provence, nong khai, phitsanulok

 

Comments

1

Wow, some amazing photos you guys keep taking. What talent!


  Ursula Apr 21, 2009 5:19 PM

2

nice one guys. One small regret that I have is that we never went to Burma while we were in SE Asia. From what I hear it will be amazing. have fun. I can't wait to hear about it.

  Len Apr 22, 2009 4:23 AM

3

5) There is no such thing as a full local bus, when you think it's full, another 10 people manage to squeeze on!

- That's exactly like the tube in London isn't it??

  Tiff May 23, 2009 3:58 PM

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