I’m still sober and I’m in Nong Khai, the most northerly province in north eastern Thailand. As I write, this I am sitting on my guest house porch and looking across the Mekong River into Laos.
Some time ago, I had promised Noo that we would make a trip to Nong Khai as it is one of the few Thai provinces I have never been to and I knew she hadn’t seen her family for quite a long time. I had suggested we go at New Year but she had declined, citing the traffic jams as reason not to go then, so we settled for early January, when most of the Issan revellers were back to work in their far flung places of employment.
I agreed to take Noo’s elder sister with me, the one who lives in Samut Songkram, so on Wednesday evening I picked her up at the Pattaya bus station and at 7.30 this morning, we set off in my beamer for the 700 odd kilometres trip.
I have found a good rule of thumb is that I average just over 100kms per hour on journeys in Thailand. This is achieved by driving a maximum of 160/hr when traffic conditions permit (rarely) more often between 120 and 140 and of course, at times much slower. Traffic lights on major highways also reduce journey times considerably.
Sure enough we arrived in Nong Kai just after 3 p.m. and my journey computer told me the driving time was almost exactly 7 hours and I had averaged 102kms/hr. (The computer excludes time when the engine is turned off – i.e. when we stop for fuel, food etc,).
I was originally planning to drive along the motorway towards Bangkok and then northwards on the outer ring road, thence to Korat to pick up route 2 to the Northeast. But at the last moment I decided to head straight up from Pattaya, picking up route 331 which passes a few kms north of where I live in Mabprachan. It was a good decision as the roads were either 4 or six lane highways all the way to route 2 at Korat. If anyone is interested , the 331 will take you all the way to Phanom Sarakam where you pick up the 304 which will take you the rest of the way to route 2. It was the fastest part of the journey, as although route 2 is mainly OK, it can get quite congested, especially when passing through major towns, such as Kon Kaen and Udon Thani.
So I was pretty tired when I arrived at Noo’s village where we stopped for a short while to meet all the family and have quick meal, before we drove down-town Nong Khai to the banks of the Mekhong River to find some accommodation.
We found a nice friendly guest house which overlooks the Mekong River and nearby there are a few more guest houses and restaurants. We took an evening wander along the banks of the Mekong and even managed to find a few bars and some farang tourists – those buggers get everywhere! But it was a million miles from the flesh pots of Pattaya or Bangkok, or even Lake Mabprachan for that matter. We also discovered a riverside market, which had just closed so we shall return there tomorrow.
We found a large Thai restaurant that had riverside tables and enjoyed an excellent repast at a fraction of the price it would have cost us back in Chonburi.
Earlier, I had been introduced to Noo’s mother, father and her two kids. My first impressions of them are very favourable. Her parents were polite and friendly, as were her children, who are both very good looking – just like their mum.
This is the most laid back I have ever been in a relationship. I try to stay pretty quiet and unobtrusive; remain in the background and do not force myself on anyone or offer to bankroll everything in sight. (Not that dear little Noo asks me to.)
We plan to stay here until Sunday morning when I will make the return trip to Pattaya. I’m not exactly sure what’s on the itinerary for the next 2 days, but tomorrow, Friday, is national Children’s Day and we shall go and see Noo’;s son at his school.
I think I will enjoy my little break here. The weather is fantastic, barely reaching 30 in the day and in then the low 20’s at night with a cool breeze blowing across the Mekong from Laos.
There have been moments in the past few days when I have been tempted to have a few drinks – including one today when we went for our meal. It would have gone down nicely with a cold beer or a glass of wine, (as would our seafood meal at Bang Sare the other day), but so far I have held strong and resisted the urge. When I get back to Pattaya I must start going to AA meetings again. I know they will help.
More from Nong Khai tomorrow – time permitting.
This little trip has put my novel on hold for a few days, although I wouldn’t totally rule out doing some work on it while I am here. I really depends on whether I find myself at a loose end for long enough to get my mind round it. If not, it will be at the top of my agenda as soon I’m back home.