A taste of Issan

A taste of Issan

With my ‘permission to stay’ date fast approaching, it was time again to head to the other side of the Thai border for a while.

This time around, I decided to catch an AirAsia flight to Vientiane, Laos and stayed the night before heading south to visit a few places I hadn’t seen before in Thailand’s Issan region.

I didn’t bother doing any sightseeing as I’ve done that a few times before – just grabbed a cab from the airport to the hotel and soaked up some of the local Beer Laos (cheap as piss!) while sitting outside a small grocery store near the hotel. I had a great time talking to myself and watching the world go by!

On the tools!

After a bad night’s sleep, I shoved a light breakfast down and walked to the bus station. Thought it would take longer than it did, so I had to wait for an hour and a half for the 9.30AM international bus to Nong Khai.

A 4 buck haircut!

Formalities at the Thai border completed, I was stamped in for 30 days and I was soon alighting at Nong Khai bus station around 11AM.

I began to walk and quickly realised I was lost. Here’s the tip – tuk-tuks (motorbike variety) are dirt cheap here, and I wish I had used them more but I ended up walking for hours on this day and scored a few blisters for my trouble. Oh well, good exercise I suppose!

When I was back on track I stopped off for a haircut and a delicious ‘Pad see ew gai’ – before finding my hotel

The above pic is the view of the Mekong river from my hotel room – a dirt cheap one I found online. Friendly owner and as I was just staying one night it suited the purpose just fine. Crashed on the bed for a few hours to escape the afternoon heat before venturing out around 4 PM to walk along the riverside promenade and take a few snaps.

With the help of Google Maps I found the ‘bar soi’ and chugged down 5 or so beers before having dinner. Noticed a decent hotel nearby which I may try out should I visit again.

Then I headed back to the hotel before any trouble could find me.

Nong Khai to Khon Kaen

The following morning I had an early start, as I had already booked a ticket on the 7:45 AM train to Khon Kaen. It was a crisp 18 degrees Celcius as I waited on the platform, which is cool for Thailand.

The train trip to Khon Kaen was uneventful, and my seat didn’t provide much of a view of the passing countryside. Still, for THB 140 I wasn’t in a position to complain and I much prefer train travel to being on a bus.

I decamped at Starbucks in Central Plaza for a few hours to get some work done and boy was it doing a roaring trade. Then I took a motorbike taxi to the upmarket Avani hotel, where I met the wife who had flown in from Bangkok. Nice hotel, and I took a leisurely dip in the freezing pool while the better-half indulged in a spa treatment. A few Coronas passed the lips after I dried out and waited for the princess to join me.

It was Halloween and we had a few drinks in one of the hotel bars. Nothing to write home about, but the staff made a decent effort in getting with the theme of the evening.

The next day our good friend Marko arrived and picked us up after a somewhat disappointing Dim Sum brunch. Visiting Marko and his new bub which was the main reason we took this detour.

Our destination was Kalasin, but we insisted on stopping at Wat Thun Setthi, a picturesque temple on the outskirts of Khon Kaen. Shame the weather wasn’t more accommodating, as the grey skies in the pictures don’t do the place justice. Well worth a visit!

We stayed at a small resort on the outskirts of Yang Talat. The name escapes me but it was decent and the rooms well priced. Also had a great restaurant, as long as you like Issan food!

On Saturday we headed into Kalasin proper and not much to see other than the Art Deco Supak hotel where we stopped for coffee. Not sure it was worth a bone-crunching one hour ride in a tuk-tuk, but it chewed up a decent part of the morning. There really is not much to do out in the sticks, not many farangs survive when they venture out to those parts to live. Boredom often leads to alcoholism.

On Sunday morning it was time to head back to Bangers, and we took our seats on a packed Thai Lion flight for the short hop home.

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