(Written by Dave)
What a night we had at the old Irish Clock. Our room was right above the bar and the previous night there was a live band. We thought we were goners but the band quit at 10:15 and it was all quiet by 10:30. Last night at 9:00 the bar was virtually empty so we thought we were set for another quiet night when we left the bar and headed up to our room. Not so fast… The open-air pool hall across the way decided that Wednesday night would make an excellent karaoke night. They had their volume cranked so loud our room fan, our A/C and a head under the pillow made little difference. We had to resort to earplugs but even then it was still really loud. We both sort faded in and out of sleep until after midnight when they finally shut down – it can’t imagine how they get away with that and our guest house retains it’s number one rating. For sure our review won’t be great! It’s a shame, as the room was pretty nice and the food at the restaurant/bar was pretty nice.
We were still up pretty early this morning. We wanted to reach Nong Khai early so that we could ensure that we got a good place to stay. We were riding from the guesthouse by 7:30 and even had to wait for an employee to show up to get our key deposit back. The ride was pretty short and maybe even a little boring. It had a few rollers but was mostly on a main highway with lots of traffic. There was a good shoulder but not much to look at most of the way. We stopped at a PTT petrol station where they had an Amazon Coffee and 7/11. We were thinking that it might be the last one we see for a while – we have no idea what we’ll find in Laos (probably not PTT as one of the “Ts” stands for Thailand).
We took a few photos today at things we see every day but have not mentioned previously. The first, lottery ticket sales folks. We see these men and women with cases of what look like lottery tickets. You see lot’s of Thais buying tickets and really looking them over. I’ve tried to engage a couple of the sellers but not yet found one that spoke any English. Later in the day at the guesthouse we spoke to an American who has lived in Thailand for 10 years. He filled us in. It is a government sponsored lottery, the sellers make a small commission and Thais all pick their own numbers based on any number of seeming random things – much like lottery in the west.
Our stall of the day was coconut sellers. Actually, I’m sure that we will see a lot of these in Laos as well but we’ve seen so many here that we really take them for granted. Today there was a stretch of highway where we encountered a bunch of them in a row. We’ve only had a couple fresh coconut juices in SE Asia. It’s not that we don’t like it, rather, when we stop, we (no really just me) need a toilet and the roadside stalls don’t have one. And finally, one last photo of the outdoor urinals. These are found at just about every petrol station. Young boys from Australia and America would love them (guess that’s why I chuckle over them as well!). Today’s facilities came complete with a great sign to help the novice know what the story was.
We had a little trouble finding the guesthouse but eventually made it here. Nong Khai is a lot nicer than Udon Thani. It’s smaller feeling and the mighty Mekong makes a nice backdrop. Our guesthouse (Mee Mut Guesthouse) is even better than Lonely Planet described. We splashed out for a nice room with a river view, not that expensive really. The room has no TV but to give you an idea how great a place this is to hang out, we arrived at 11AM and hardly moved from the garden table we settled into for the entire afternoon. The garden looks out over the river. There are lots of plants and shade, plus a cooling breeze off the river. I think we could get stuck here for a few days.
And finally onto “floating things”. In the late afternoon our guest house had a krathong making table set-up. They had everything you need – rounds of banana trunk, banana leaves, flowers and pins. They even gave a few tips. We both got stuck into making two of the ugliest krathongs the world has seen (but I guess beauty wasn’t the point) – all the locals making them made nice ones. Then we walked out to the near-by temple and discovered that you can buy them and the “professionally made” versions are quite fancy and beautiful. Oh well, later in the night when we floated ours out on the river, we at least knew that we made them.
We had a stroll of the temple and water front near the guesthouse right around sunset. Our first sunset over the Mekong lived up to its reputation. Eventually we made it back to the guesthouse and had dinner. The menu and food here is amazing. I don’t think we’ll have many off-site meals. Nancy has two brekkies per day identified already from the menu.
Eventually it got dark enough for folks to start lighting their krathongs and lanterns. It was quite a site. The floating krathongs were nice but it was a little manic getting to the water’s edge on a narrow wooden pier. The lanterns were fantastic. Lanterns are basically a big rice paper bag with a bamboo and wax rings on one end. You light the wax and the bag fills with hot air. Eventually, it get hot enough and floats out of your hands. Both water and lanterns are supposed to float your troubles away. Seeing all the lanterns heading skyward was quite pretty. Our troubles floated without issue. We did see a couple lanterns land in trees and catch fire so I’m not sure how those folks and their troubles are doing.
All and all a great day – We made the right call coming to Nong Khai. We have a great place to stay and got to be part of one of the bigger annual festivals. While we can see Laos and the Friendship Bridge that leads there from our guesthouse, we may be stuck here for a few days while we work through the menu. We’re both a little nervous about the food in Laos and we got time up our sleeves on the Thai visas.
Off to hopefully a quiet night next to the Mekong…