Nongkhai, Udon Thani, Vientiane, Nong Bua Lamphu, Phu Ruea, Lom Sak and back to Sukhothai
The following submission will detail a road trip coupled with a visa run which took place on Monday May 7 and ended on Saturday May 12.
As Monday May 7 was the last day of my visa, a visa run was required to extend my stay. After brainstorming with my wife where we could accomplish this, my wife decided that Vientiane in Laos would be ideal.
Our trip began from Sukhothai Monday morning as this is where my wife’s village and home is. All of her extended family literally resides next to one another and every day without failure, most of her relatives are over at our
place cooking and eating together which is simply fantastic.
A few days before we left, during one of these nightly feasts, my wife told everyone how on Monday morning we need to go to Vientiane for the visa run. Instantly, the road trip turned into an extended family road trip which I thought
was even better. The following family members tagged along: Grandmother who is 81 years old but going strong, 2 aunties, son of one of the aunties, daughter of the other auntie, my son and son’s friend.
We started Monday morning driving East on highway 12. We turned left onto highway 2013 heading North East until we came to our first rest stop to eat food and take a leak. Here are some pictures of the place.
This was the place of our first rest stop. Nam Lao
The vehicle we were travelling in
Group photo without grandma
A nice pond
Pathway leading to toilets
A proverb from the Balkans says “whether your rich or poor, after a meal, smoke a cigarette”
With our bellies full and bodily waste disposed of, we were back on the road to Nongkhai. After a long sleep in the back of the pick-up, I needed to take a leak again as did some others. We stopped at the following crossroad just pass
Phu Ruea where toilet facilities were available:
The toilet we used here
A hut next to the toilet where I had a nice stretch till the others finished their leak
Now that everyone had finished using the toilet, we started our journey again. By now, we were on highway 203 and my wife turned right onto a road that is on the map but not numbered which eventually connected us to highway 2140. On this
un-numbered road, 2 girls were selling fresh lychee on a roadside stall where my wife stopped and bought a bag full.
The girls selling lychee
Lychee tree just opposite from the stall
From here on, it was pretty much non-stop to Nongkhai.
It was about 7 PM and without finding accommodation in Nongkhai, my wife and I did a quick visa run to extend my stay for 2 weeks not wanting to overstay. As the Thai embassy was closed and would be closed on Wednesday due to some sort
of holiday, we decided to visit the embassy and apply for my visa on Thursday which allowed me to get my visa the next day as we wanted to keep our stay in Laos to a minimum. After extending my stay for 2 weeks without a hiccup, we then proceeded
to find accommodation in Nongkhai. First night we stayed at a hotel which I don’t remember the name of now but it cost 400 baht with cable TV and the room was quite clean. Best of all, we had a grand view of the Mekong River. Here are
a few pictures right outside my room.
Breakfast the following morning
The Mekong with the Friendship Bridge in the background
Another shot of the Mekong in the other direction
We had two days to spend in Nongkhai until we went to Vientiane. Our first goal was to change hotels to an even cheaper one whom my wife’s aunties insisted on. We packed up and a few hundred meters down the road we found a hotel
called Mini. It was 250 baht a night with air conditioning, cable TV, cleanliness was adequate, free wi-fi but no breakfast included and no view of the Mekong. Still though, at that price it was a massive bargain.
After settling in and dropping our bags off, we headed to explore Nongkhai. First stop was the Indo China market.
The entrance we entered from.
The humungous green shirt on the left according to the shop keeper had buyers which was the only size that fit them.
Though this market seems to be a main attraction of Nongkhai, I didn’t really get worked up about it. Walking along the Mekong was also out of the question as the heat was unbearable. After the aunties completed their stint of
shopping, everyone wanted to go home and sleep till the night. I however took my son, his friend and my wife’s aunties son to a snooker hall where we played snooker till my wife picked us up at night after everyone had woken up for
The Next day on Wednesday, we decided to head to Udon Thani which is only about 50 km from Nongkhai and visit a few attractions there. I found Udon to be a very large city. I would say bigger than Ubon Rachatani and Phitsanulok. First
stop was an orchid nursery.
This was the place
Front garden of the nursery
Another front garden shot as I couldn’t bother walking around the nursery
From here we started making our way to a waterfall not far outside of Udon. The place we headed was Phu Failom. Now this was one of the most memorable places I have been to in my life. As we drove off the main road heading very far inland,
the scenery was breathtaking.
We then arrived at our destination which was a park next to the waterfall containing beautiful gardens.
Group shot at the garden. I don’t know what it is with that V sign under the chin.
The waterfall itself was a disappointment as it was a tiny stream and getting to the main waterfall required extensive hiking which was out of the question. Not far from the waterfall and garden was a lovely coffee lounge where we decided
to sit and have our lunch and drinks.
Bungalows opposite the coffee lounge. Apparently it gets fully booked close to New Years
The lady running the coffee lounge who was THE most charming and friendliest lady you would ever meet. Period.
Here she is again posing kindly with the children
Practicing my Muay Thai on a helpless young girl
From here we headed back to Nongkhai and prepared ourselves for Vientiane the next day.
Before we exited Thailand, my wife struck a deal with a van driver who would drive the nine of us into Vientiane, help us get through the queue of people at Vientiane Immigration, then help us get through the massive queue at the Thai
embassy, take us to a cheap hotel right next to the Mekong and drive us around Vientiane showing the main attractions. The next day he would pick us up, drive us to a market for some shopping, then take us to the Thai embassy to pick up my
passport with fresh Non-Immigrant O visa (by-passing the queue who had been waiting since 12 PM), then take us back to the border and again help us by-pass the departure at immigration.. The amount my wife paid for all this service was ridiculously
cheap which cost about 500 baht. Others were paying double that amount or close to it just to get a ride into Vientiane. The key to his services was helping us by-pass the queues especially at the Thai embassy.
Queue of people waiting to get stamped at arrivals in Vientiane
Group shot on the promenade along the Mekong in Vientiane
Sun setting in Vientiane
Market stalls along the promenade with the famous Bor Pennyang in the backdrop which I didn’t get to visit.
Waiting for our dinner to be served
Waiting for breakfast the next morning in Vientiane at a restaurant called Nazim’s
Market in Vientiane we visited before going to pick up my passport
Reclining Buddha right next to the market
One of the friendly ladies selling silk
Flick knife I bought for myself
Interesting items for sale
Here we are waiting exactly opposite the Thai embassy while our tour guide gets my passport. Gates open at 1 PM to receive passport (people start queuing 1.5 hours prior). Our guide was back with my passport at 1:15 PM.
Now that I received my passport with a 3-month visa, it was time to leave Vientiane. I found Vientiane extremely boring and would not like to go back there. People are friendly and courteous but the weather is so hot and the nightlife
not very good either. But Beer Lao gets my approval. Great beer but Leo is still incomparable.
Getting through immigration in Nongkhai was a nightmare for my wife, son and I. The rest had special papers which allowed them to by-pass the queue. We were stuck for almost an hour in the queue. But the nightmare only got worse once
we made it into Thailand.
After our bags got checked, auntie’s son and I immediately made our way to where we parked our pick-up. The rest were waiting near the Thai immigration while we got the car to pick them up. When we got back to pick everyone up,
my wife and one of her aunties were missing. I inquired as to where they were and found out that Immigration had swooped on them and taken my wife to the Immigration detention centre close by. After waiting about an hour next to the snooker
hall, my wife and aunty finally arrived with my wife seriously distressed. I inquired what all the fuss was about and she told me that because she had 7 cartons of smokes in one bag, she exceeded her limit of 2 cartons. Even though she kept
insisting to the Immigration officer that it was 2 cartons each for the adults, they would not have a bar of it.
She managed to escape being locked up till Monday and going to court by having to fork out 24,000 baht ($AU800), a large sum of money. The Customs officer initially asked for 34,000 baht but because my wife is Thai, she managed to persuade
the officer to drop the amount down. In addition, my wife told them her grandmother was very worried and distressed and to show compassion which also assisted. Furthermore, she persuaded the officer to give back 2 cartons of smokes plus the
grog which she assured me would normally be confiscated. She also told me there were dozens of farang in a similar quandary at the station and they didn’t have the cash to pay which meant a weekend in lock up till court on Monday. There
was even a Thai police officer in trouble who my wife told me was getting aggressive with the Customs officer telling him he is a police officer and the Customs officer replied by saying that he should know better than the average person.
Even he wasn’t getting off lightly. I’ll leave commentaries to you about corruption in Thailand.
Now that my wife and her aunty were back, we started heading back home but by now, the time was 5 pm. We decided to drive half way to Phu Ruea and spend the night there and start making our way back home after we got plenty of rest and
Nong Bua Lamphu
As we were nearing Nong Bua Lamphu, everyone was starving and also needed to go toilets. We decided to stop at this small city to take a short break and feed ourselves. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this city. It had a strong community
feeling to it. For a moment, I thought I was in Bondi Beach with a lot of people exercising at the main square and going for walks along the promenade.
Locals of Nong Bua Lamphu doing aerobics in the main square
View of the river right next to the main square
View of the night market just opposite the main square in Nong Bua Lamphu
Delicious Mangos at the night market in Nong Bua Lamphu
Before we left Nongkhai, my wife had booked accommodation for us at a resort in Phu Ruea to spend the night. We arrived after midnight and we settled in for the night. Throughout the entire road trip, this resort and the trip home from
here on was the best and most memorable part. The bungalows were amazing. They were very big and very clean. Cable TV, wi-fi and air-conditioning. They even had a snooker table in the resort! They also had Leo beer. But above all this were
the jackfruit trees all around us. Simply amazing is how I would describe it. The smell of the fruit was irresistible. The lovely lady told us we could eat as many as we liked! Breakfast for me was plenty of jackfruit.
A shot of the resort from my bungalow
The bungalow I stayed in
Check out the jackfruits
More beauty next to our bungalow
The smell of these jackfruits was so nice. They tasted even better.
Check these out
That’s the biggest jackfruit I have seen. Huge
Inside the bungalow
Entrance into the resort
View opposite the resort
The resort itself if you’re interested in going
Snooker room in our resort
After we packed up, we started heading to the centre of Phu Ruea to have breakfast at a restaurant which was about 5 km from the resort.
The restaurant in Phu Ruea where we had breakfast
A shot of the landscape from the front of the restaurant
The garden right next to the restaurant with a magnificent view
I think this is called a lily which was in front of the restaurant
A funny incident took place at the restaurant which I’ll share. While waiting for our food to arrive, a family pulls up and sits diagonally opposite our table. The family consisted of the mother, father and three daughters who
were in their early 20’s. They were extremely attractive and sexy probably due to the high altitude and fresh air from the jungles in Phu Ruea. (We were told they were locals by the staff). They also seemed like an upper middle-class
family from the way they were dressed. From where I was sitting, 2 of the girls had their backs faced to me while the mother, father and the other daughter who was sitting in between her parents were facing me. The cloth of the table was barely
hanging off the edges of their table which gave me a full view of this girl’s legs. Her skirt was so short that when she crossed her legs, you could literally see her crack because of the angle she was sitting from me. She wasn’t
wearing any underwear as well. Now here I am not trying to make it obvious I am perving at this sexy girl whose crack is right in my face while trying to eat my breakfast. I thought about taking a picture without her knowing but with all my
extended family next to me, didn’t want to risk getting caught by them. Coffee was not needed to wake me up.
After filling our bellies, we start heading towards home again. The drive itself from here on was spectacular. With winding roads around mountains and jungles, I was left in awe at the beauty of this country. “Now this”
I said to myself “was the real Thailand”. The unspoilt and tranquil jungles and mountains with the freshest air and unparalleled beauty were simply inspirational.
View from the side of the highway
We then made our way to a small town called Lom Sak to take a small break and eat something. I took this opportunity to take a stroll around the town.
View of a street in Lom Sak
Same street in the opposite direction
Different soi in Lom Sak
Lom Sak was a very small town and nothing to hype up here. The heat however was the worst I ever experienced in my life in Thailand. This so far was the hottest place I have been to in Thailand, nay, my life.
We start driving again and we are back on the windy mountainous roads when we encounter a market beside the road. We decide to visit.
The car park next the market off the main road
View from in front of the parked cars
And another view of the landscape from the same spot which was superb
Shot of the market stalls
One of the very friendly and sweet girls attending to a stall
A cat at the market with a nice dress
Once we completed our shopping here, we started heading on the road again and about 5 km further, pulled into another magnificent joint.
This was the place
I don’t know what this says.
More signs pertaining to the place
What a view to enjoy while eating and drinking
View from the ledge which was extraordinary
Another view from the ledge
They even had swings at the place
Mother and son
Sitting in a hut with the boys at the beautiful place
Eating sticky rice at the joint which was yummy
The incredibly friendly and sweet girl attending to us (on the left)
Grandma and Me
After a brief stay at this magnificent joint, we start our journey back again until I notice plenty of waterfall signs on the highway and tell my wife I would like to visit one for a short time before the final stretch home. Here is where
we ended up.
The water was not very inviting
From another angle
Further down stream
Shopkeeper next to the waterfall who again was such a lovely person
After we were fulfilled with the place, we then started our last stretch home which was another hour or so back to Sukhothai. As we were getting very close to Sukhothai, another pick up driving alongside us was in the mood for a drag
race for some funny reason. When we were both forced to stop at lights I decided to give this guy a race. He really was putting the pedal to the metal but the turbo in our pick up gave us the edge and at 160 km/h left him licking his wounds.
A nice way to end a road trip I thought.
I wanted to also share the following pictures I took 2 days ago at my son’s high school in Sukhothai. The girls were rehearsing and practicing the traditional Thai dance.
A very nice trip report. I have a bunch of random comments to make:
* There's some really nice scenery up that way and you did a nice job of capturing it as well as the flavour of that part of the country.
* Did you go to Sala Gaewgoo, the Buddha park in Nongkhai City. It's a *very* nice attraction I make a point of visiting every time I go.
* I personally love Vientiane but can see how you could get bored there.
* I am very surprised your wife and others tried to take so many cigarettes back into Thailand. At every border crossing there are large signs in multiple languages i.e. Thai, English and the language of the country across the border (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Malaysia) outlining the limits of cigarettes and alcohol – and the fines for exceeding those limits. Thai Customs is very clear in its warnings.