Mekong Moments, Loei North Thailand
We decided to stop in the Loei Palace Hotel for two nights since it had a big pool and was relatively luxurious. We’d been on the road a week and every night stayed somewhere different so needed a little down time. The town is a traffic clogged little place with tiny roads and too much on them. A busy weekend night market provided us with plenty of deep fried food that seems to be primary form of sustenance up this way.
It was time to head north again to Chiang Khan on the river. This is a touristy little town famous for its river front walking street. Years ago it would have been throbbing with farang backpackers and travellers hanging out in reggae bars on the Mekong, sipping a cool beer at sunset. Today it is rammed with locals jostling for parking spaces in SUVs, taking selfies and eating deep fried bananas. The river front is very scenic and the place reminded me a little of Luang Prabang, tourist price premiums and tee shirts included. We spent some time at Khaeng Khut Khu where the river meanders and went up Phu Thok to get some shots of the low lying clouds.
Soon it was time to head south again, we were at the northern point of our trip, a thousand kilometers from home. Instead of risking life and limb on single lane roads back to Phetchabun it was decided to head to Khon Kaen for a night and take the highway south from there. On the way we stopped at what is known as Kunming in Loei, a nature park built around the rock formations. No dual pricing was refreshing and we were the only ones there! A guided walk through the labyrinthine rock formations and a ride into the park and back set us back a whopping 55 baht each – clearly the Chinese have yet to invade the outer reaches of Loei province.
KK is a huge flat sprawling city that grinds to a halt during rush hour. We didn’t get to see much of the city due to road fatigue, and our hotel was in the middle of the nightclub district which didn’t help matters.
Two rapid fire coffees and on the road early next morning to click off some kilometers. Unfortunately the road was not playing ball as every 4 kilometers or so there was another set of traffic lights making this ‘highway’ extremely slow going, Phetchabun would have been better after all. To break the journey we stopped in Saraburi and it was raining when we arrived so food and relaxation were the only things in order after driving the hellish ‘highway 2’ south of Korat battling with a thousand buses. As you’ve probably gathered, I’m not fond of driving in Thailand – it’s like playing a video game where you only have one life and everything out there is trying to kill you!
The next day’s leg was even worse as we had to deal with Pathum Thani, outer Bangkok, and the dreaded highway 35 to get to Amphawa where we would stop for the night. One hard lesson learned was not to trust Google Maps GPS – it will either drive you straight into a wall of traffic, or down a country lane with more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese, to shave 32 seconds off the journey – which actually ends up adding about 30 minutes. Another thing Google can’t do is predict where the traffic police, in all of their wisdom, have closed off the u-turns. Today’s sub-200 kilometer journey ended up taking over four hours and we were glad to finally arrive in Amphawa mid-afternoon.
Being mid-week most of the place, including the big market, was closed. On the plus side the accommodation was half the price and we had the place to ourselves. The reason for coming here was to see the fireflies so we chartered a boat for 600 baht and headed up river at 7pm. Again, not being a weekend, there were no other boats so we coasted along the banks watching the trees light up like a Griswold’s Christmas vacation. Apparently a certain type of tree attracts them to this area. We finished off with a lovely seafood meal on the river and headed back south the next morning.