11 Months, 28 Days, still sober – Yes folks only 3 more days to go…..
Here is the second part of my trip report.
On Thursday, Noo spent the day with her family, while I stayed back at the guest house doing my usual computer stuff. In the afternoon I decided to have break and took a long walk along the riverside, and thence to a nearby thoroughfare which led me to this Chinese temple, virtually in the middle of nowhere.
I then retraced my steps back through Taa Sadej market.
Where I found this interesting busker, trying to make a few Baht…
On Friday we rose quite early, and checked out of our room at Mut Mee Guest house in Nong Khai. We were soon on the road that follows the Mekong in a North Westerly direction, up through Nong Khai and into Loei province.
We made a quick stop at Tha Bo where Noo bought a new fridge for her Dad. His existing fridge is over 20 years old and is held together with rubber bands. It was so rusty that it was in imminent danger of electrocuting the next hapless person who tried to open the door.
Having arranged for a songtaow to deliver the fridge to his home a few kilometres away, we were back on the road which was becoming increasingly unsuitable for my low slung beamer. It was full of deep pot holes and deep fissures and in some places the road had disintegrated entirely into a dirt track littered with sharp rocks.
Some of the views of the Mekong along route 211 were quite spectacular; but the driving was very hard work, as for the most part I had to drive at extremely slow speeds and navigate our way along roads that could easily damage my wheels and/or suspension if I wasn’t extremely careful.
A Laotion truck on the Laos side of the Mekong. (Not bad zoom quality from my little Canon)
This little trip was starting to convince me that if I wanted to do any more of this ‘exploring’ up-country, then I would be better off changing out my vehicle for something more suitable.
After what seemed an eternity, we finally made it up to Chiang Khan and took a drive up a very steep mountain track to a huge Buddha and Wat that over-looked the Mekong.
We then made our way inland, but the terrain was still extremely bad, so by the time we finally made it to Phu Rua in Loei, the sun was setting and I was completely exhausted from the concentration involved in protecting my trusty BM from damage.
The road to Phu Rua – one of the better stretches
There is a huge national park at Phu Rua which has a number of mountain ranges, waterfalls and other worthwhile views, which on a typical weekend attracts many Thai tourists. We discovered this to our cost as resort after resort was fully booked by Thai tour groups who were descending on the area in Busses and minivans for a weekend away.
We were starting to think we may have to spend the night in the car when we came across a delightful little place, a bit off the beaten track, which had simple, but very clean rooms available, at simple prices. The room was 400 Baht and very basic, but it had all we needed – a double bed and a bathroom.
As night descended, the temperature plummeted to around 12 degrees Centigrade and we both put on our winter woollies to keep warm. I even bought Noo a woolly hat which she didn’t take off until about noon the following day!
The place was empty when we arrived, but later in the evening a number of Thai guests arrived, who in time- honoured Thai fashion, turned on their stereo and proceeded to have a party, all of which we could hear through our paper thin walls. But I was so tired that it didn’t really bother me and before long I was sound asleep.
Just as well I got a few hours sleep, for the night was still upon us and the cocks had yet to get into high gear when our considerate fellow guests turned their radio on at full blast and we were treated to a rousing, early morning, music reveille.
When I had cleared my bleary eyes sufficiently to focus on my watch, I found that it wasn’t yet 6 am. But I reasoned, somewhat philosophically, that it was probably just as well, as we had a very long way to go if we were to make it back to Pattaya before sundown.
Much as I wanted to drive to the Phu Rua National Park and up to some of the scenic summits, I decided that if we were to do this, we may never make it back to Pattaya that day as we were now even further from home than when we were in Nong Khai; and we were also quite a long way from the major trunk routes.
Resolving that we would spend a day in Phu Rua National Park on the next occasion we went to Nong Khai, we headed off towards Dan Sai, before making the long trek home.
The road to Dan Sai was good and once again the views were spectacular as we travelled through the steep hills of Loei.
One of the major sights of Dan Sai is Wat Neramitr and we stopped off there to admire the beautiful temple and the murals that adorn its walls.
One of the many beautiful murals at Wat Neramitr. (I used a flash to cancel out the top light.)
I decided to drive back south on route 21 which runs all the way to Saraburi, via Petchabun. I had travelled this road several years ago when I stopped off in Petchabun on my way back from Chiang Mai, and found it to be a little used, very good, fast 4 lane highway. And so it proved to be again, and we made excellent time along the entire length of the road.
Again, there was some spectacular scenery en route, both in Loei and Petchabun, which also is a very mountainous province.
It was on the final leg of the journey, just when I was starting to feel rather weary, that I experienced the biggest problem of my journey. After driving through Saraburi, I headed east, past Nakhon Nayok towards Prachin Buri, with the intention of picking up route 331 which runs from Kabin Buri, all the way to Banglamung, near my home in Mabprachan.
I don’t quite know what happened, but I got to Prachin Buri OK but then found myself on route 304, which I hoped would lead me to the 331 , but I ended up getting completely lost. By time I realised I was lost, I had driven quite a long way off my route. I was in fact heading back towards Kabin Buri, so what with retracing my steps and a more few false starts, I finally managed to find the elusive 331, after driving for an hour or more across country on a very slow, traffic congested, one lane road.
So it was home at around 5.45 pm, having been on the road since very early that morning, and to be honest, I think I am still recovering…
The dogs went ballistic as you might expect and the next day, Christmas Day, we had a quiet, restful day at home with them before deciding to go out in search of a turkey dinner in the evening. We failed miserably to find a suitable restaurant (they were either fully booked or weren’t doing anything special) and ended up sharing a pizza an empty restaurant just down the road from my home.
But it was fine – I’m not big on Christmases and Noo doesn’t know any different.
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot!….