After yesterday’s major rain storms had run amok with the weather today started off fine enough. However, it was back once more to Khorat bus station where we were herded onto our transport to take us direct to what we thought would be Nong Khai as this was going to be our stopping off point for us crossing the mighty Mekong River to get to Laos and Vientiane. The route itself seemed on paper quite direct along the main road but it still takes about five hours even if everything goes to plan.
There were some spits and spats of rain along the way but not enough to slow us down, not that there is a great deal that can slow down a Thai Coach driver! As we progressed along the way, the bus emptied more and more until at Udon Thani, still an hour away from our destination, everyone jumped off the bus except for us – Gulp! At this point we had no idea what was going on! So we explained our situation to the driver who then explained this to the guy running the show, who then took us to the minibus round the corner and got us on the next minibus heading to Nong Khai, out of there. All a wee bit chaotic once again but it all just works, even when you think that it is not going to!
At Nong Khai we were welcomed by a Tuk Tuk driver who tried his very best to rip us off by taking us a long way to travel a short distance! However, the hotel when we finally got there we really lovely, our room was right by the Mekong itself and though the river was its usual grubby brown, there is something about the Mekong which really gets to you, I don’t know how but somehow it just means life, I suppose it was how the Thames used to look back in the day. Literally anything could come floating down the river from a dead buffalo to a half sunk barge and yet appalling though it is, it is appealing too, truly the stuff of life. The owner of the hotel, a thin polite Thai gentleman was one of those guys who could just not do enough for you, he even helped arrange our visas for tomorrow’s journey over into Laos so that was a big load off our minds.
We soon enough got ourselves and our bags settled into our room but as it was getting on for teatime so we went for a wander along the riverbank to go and have a look at the bars and shops. Even just this short walk gave us a really good feeling about the town it was just so quaint and at this time of day, this side of the bank was starting to feel nice and chilled. Parents were coming out to have a stroll and were bringing their kids with them and it was just really heartwarming to see. Where we come from, back home, our seaside town (Grimsby) is on the bank of an estuary and a similar thing happens on nice days at teatime, people come out with their kids or go along the front walking their dogs. It was nice to see something so very familiar in such very different surroundings, it looked just like home.
We parked ourselves at one of the bars for a bite to eat and just watched the people wondering by. We were nicely chilled out so treat ourselves to a couple of beers (or three) and whilst having a drink had a couple of games of pool. The last time we played pool I had given my wife a few tips which unfortunately she has not forgotten so the games are a lot closer than I tend to like but it was a good laugh and a good vibe. As we wandered back to our beds we stopped at another bar and listened to a bit of live music whilst watching the magical river simply roll on by, a bit of a strange old journey but a perfect ending to it.