Early September we flew from Phuket to Udon Thani for 7 nights, our flights were direct with Air Asia and they were free. We had booked them last year while there was a sale with free flights, so all we paid was taxes & the cost of one piece of luggage.
We had a plan & were determined to stick to it ha-ha. First night was at the Irish Clock Guesthouse/Pub in Udon, then we would drive to different areas for the next 4 days & come back to stay our last 2 nights in Udon Thani before flying back to Phuket.
We booked direct at the Irish Clock & paid 850baht with breakfast & free wifi. What a fantastic place to stay, there are only 6 rooms above the pub & what a surprise they were! The rooms are huge & very comfortably set out. The rooms facing the street have a nice big balcony & are nicely decorated, they have a lovely comfy arm chair with a footstool, the bed is like sleeping in luxury, there is plenty of storage for suitcases etc and the bathroom is also very big.
The food here is also delicious, cheap & very big serves. After 3 months of Thai food I was dying for something with potato, their cottage pie hit the spot & it would have to be one of the best western meals I have had in Thailand!
We had also booked a Mitsubishi Triton Plus with GPS through Lek Car Hire for 1300baht per day. Loved the car!
So our first night in Udon Thani was a quiet one, we wanted to leave early the next morning and go to the Ban Chiang Archeological Site which is located in the Nong Han district. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important prehistoric settlements so far that has been discovered in SE Asia. The site is under the town of Ban Chiang with one of the excavations sites open to the public in the grounds of a temple called Wat Pho Si Nai.
Not far from there is also the sites museum but unfortunately it was closed due to the power being off while we were there. There is a small charge to enter the museum which covers the excavation site as well; however we did not have to pay due to the closure of the museum. It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
From there we headed for Sakon Nakhon which is about 160 kilometers from Udon, I had read about some Khmer ruins in the Phu Phan National Park so of course wanted to see it. We had many funny rest breaks/photo stops along the way & for some reason we always stopped at bus stops that seemed out in the middle of nowhere.
It was amazing the amount of Thai people in trucks, tractors, bikes etc that would stop to wave, sounds silly but these were some of our best times. The scenery is just beautiful, rice paddies, fisherman with their nets in small creeks along the way, just too much to look at, so it takes us ages to get anywhere!
Everything here is reminding us of driving in Cambodia, the views are so similar!
We had left the main highway now & came across a small shop, I ordered a couple of Cha Yen’s (Thai Ice Tea with milk), no one spoke English here & we ended up with 2 Green Teas ha-ha. So far the weather has been fantastic except for a torrential downpour that lasted 10 minutes; this was the only rain we saw in a week.
Well we are still looking for the Khmer ruins; we have the area in the GPS so kept doing what the nice lady told us to, big mistake!! We ended up on the worst roads we have seen in Thailand & it seemed to go forever (well about 3 hours out of our way). Eventually we ended up on the main highway again & headed back to Sakon Nakhon for a look around & maybe stay the night; we never did find those ruins!!
Have to say we were not that fussed with Sakon so decided to keep driving & stay a couple of days in Nakhon Phanom which was about another 90 kilometers away, it was already late afternoon & we wanted to get there before dark, so on we go.
When we arrived in Nakhon Phanom we drove along the riverfront & decided to stay at the Viewkong Hotel on the banks of the Mekong River, we had a look at a couple of rooms & decided on the Deluxe room for 900baht a night with breakfast. The room was a bit bigger but what sold us were all the windows with views across the river into Laos. The rooms here are pretty good & the bed was very comfortable but the hotel looks very old & tired due to all the mould everywhere on the outside of the building.
We checked in for 2 nights as there were a few things we wanted to see in this area. Due to the big drive & being so tired we thought we would just have dinner in the hotel restaurant (which also turned out to be their karaoke bar). I ordered a Bacardi & coke, but they didn’t have any, so tried for Vodka & coke, none of that either, but they would sell me a bottle of Whisky ha-ha, I settled on a Vodka & Cantaloupe juice for 100baht– yet they could not make a vodka & coke!! Nearly died when they bought me out a jug of it with a couple of straws, it was delicious & no I did not drink the whole lot! Gary had a large Leo which was 75baht.
It was so noisy in here we decided to go back to our room & order room service, after 4 phone calls, as no one could hear me due to the loud music/karaoke they sent someone to our room. We ordered Crispy Pork & vegetables – 119baht, Spicy Issan sausage – 99baht, deep fried beef – 119baht, Spicy beef salad – 89 baht. The food was delicious & very very spicy!
Well breakfast was another story. No Western food here, no one spoke English & Gary had to show the cook the eggs & asked for them fried, he did not understand so they phoned for help. Don’t know what the Thai food was we ate but it was nice & VERY spicy (on top of my toast).
Some of the things we did around the area were visit Wat Prathat Phanom. This beautiful Temple is about 80 kilometers south of Nakhon Phanom, it is said that every Buddhist should visit here at least once in their lifetime.
The Chedi is the main reason as it contains the chest bone of the Lord Buddha. This beautiful place is full of history & was erected over 2500 years ago; it has been renovated quite a few times over the years. On August 11, 1975 the entire pagoda collapsed after many days of rain. The Thai public made considerable donations to rebuild the pagoda and placed many valuables inside and a 110 kilogram solid gold spire on top of the pagoda was added.
During the rainy season, approximately July, August & September (depending on lunar months), monks aren't allowed to sleep outside the temple and cannot defrock. Wat Prathat Phanom is then very busy with Monks at dawn walking through the streets collecting food. Thai people fill the monks bowl with rice, soft drinks, cakes and so on. This is called TAKBAT. It is very a impressive sight in That Phanom with a row of over a hundred monks.
We spent a couple of hours here & the Temple is just beautiful, we did not see any Tourists (actually we have not seen any Westerners for a couple of days now). We did find it strange to have Monks calling out hello to us & waving, that has never happened anywhere in Thailand before. Inside the Temple grounds are also the Ratanamolisrigotapura Art & Cultural Centre & a small shop. I loved it here and of course took way to many photos, they tell the story far better than I can, the photo links are below.
We also went to see The Thai Laos Friendship Bridge Number 3 which is still being built; it is going to be very spectacular! It is quite a long way out of Nakhon Phanom.
The riverfront area was also a hive of activity while we were there with preparations for the Illuminated Boat Procession in full swing. It is held from the full moon day to the 1st day of the waning moon of the 11th lunar month, the procession always illuminates the Mekong River in front of the city hall. The procession is held to welcome Lord Buddha back to Earth after preaching to his mother in heaven during the three month period of Buddhist Lent.
Many years ago the illuminated boats were 12 meter rafts made of a banana trunk or bamboo. The raft was filled with offerings, flowers & joss sticks with candles and lamps. Today the boats are a lot bigger and much more extravagant. Sadly we did not see the event as it started a couple of days after we had left. Good excuse to go back next year!
On the outskirts of Nakhon Phanom is a little place called Ban Na Chok, here you will find the safe house that Ho Chi Minh lived in for several years from 1923. The house & small museum is run by the grand children of the Vietnamese immigrant who gave Ho Chi Minh shelter. Entry is free & there is a donation box inside the house. The house & grounds are in perfect condition and it is definitely worth a visit.
We loved our time in Nakhon Phanom, there is just so much to see and do, 2 days is not enough. But now it’s time to drive to Nong Khai which is another 350 kilometers away, but there will be a stop along the way as we have heard there is a place with Dinosaur Footprints!! Hope we can find it.
Well we were about 20 kilometers outside Nakhon Phanom, the Dinosaur Footprints place is on the map, so we should be there now, it looks like somehow we have missed it & Gary is refusing to go back looking for it. So we just keep heading for Nong Khai following the Mekong. Then about another 80 kilometers out we see a sign & turn off the main road. Amazing there is the Dinosaur Footprints Park at Tha Uthen, we have found it ha-ha.
It is amazing and for the first time I am seeing footprints that are millions of years old. The park is nicely set up with different viewing areas and info on what you are looking at. But there is a lot of work happening, huge fiber glass dinosaurs ready to be put together, workers everywhere, building going up. So looks like they are turning it into a huge tourist attraction.
We were pulled up at a check point on the way to Nong Khai but the young policeman could not speak any English & waved us off the road into a dirt area to see Mr. Boss Policeman who was sitting at a small table & chairs in the dirt area looking very official!!
Well we both got out of the car and when he saw us it was like we were his long lost friends, so its photo time ha-ha, no need to show the IDP or license etc, just lots of smiles & hand shaking, oh & he also patted Gary’s bum hahahaha. He just wanted to hear about our holiday etc. We could have sat there with him for hours but once again we need to get to Nong Khai before dark.
Well finally we arrive (after stopping at more little Temples etc) and after looking around the horrible riverfront area of Nong Khai & driving around the town we decided we didn’t like it here much, so Gary said we will continue back to our starting point - Udon Thani, so on we go again!!
After a fantastic dinner at the Irish Clock & a few drinks we started to plan our next day. We are going to drive to Khon Kaen as there is another Dinosaur Park, so off we go again. Now the scenery has totally changed, gone are all the beautiful rice fields, now we are in sugar cane land. Along the highway for many kilometers are little stalls selling sticky rice & black beans in sugar cane, just delicious & from memory they were around 6 for 100baht.
About 20 kilometers outside of Khon Kaen there is a lovely little temple called Wat Pa Kham Hua Chang. It is full of thousands of elephant statues, I have never seen so many before, so of course we had to go have a look around. A young man was there in a Ute delivering 2 big elephant statues, he said it is for good luck & also people who have relatives that have died donate elephants to them.
Finally we arrive in Khon Kaen, what a pretty town; we see a sign to turn right for the Dinosaur Park so follow it. And follow it and follow it!! Now we are 75 kilometers away from Khon Kaen and no sign of the Dinosaur Park and we have not seen another sign advertising it for about 60 kilometers. We pull in to a garage for a cold drink, no one there has heard of the place. So what to do now, keep going, which we seem to have been doing forever, or just turn around & go back.
We decided to head back to Khon Kaen. Well you will never believe it we are we are nearly back in Khon Kaen and we see a sign saying turn back for the Dinosaur Park – 80 kilometers away!!! What the!! We were so close – only 5 kilometers away, but there were no more signs, oh well, another excuse to go back next year ha-ha. So our little drive from Udon Thani to Khon Kaen which should have been about 230 kilometers return ended up being nearly 400 kilometers.
There were so many adventures & fun times on this 1500 kilometer drive, far too many to write about & I think I have gone on a bit too much again, little things like sitting in Nong Prachak Park watching a Thai family feeding the fish, then waving for me to come over to feed them as well, no words of English, just fun & laughing while feeding the fish, meeting so many wonderful people along the way.
Not seeing any tourists for at least 4 days ha-ha, looking for places & never finding them. That week has given us a taste of the Issan area & we loved it, but one week was not enough time so we will be back next year for more driving adventures.
Sorry this is so long, it really is the short version lol!
Irish Clock Guesthouse/Pub Udon Thani Picasa Web Albums - Cathy Perkins - 2011 Issan
Udon Thani, Ban Chiang, Sakon Nakhon Picasa Web Albums - Cathy Perkins - 2011 Udon Tha...
Nakhon Phanom Picasa Web Albums - Cathy Perkins - 2011 Nakhon P...
Nakhon Phanom area & Ho Chi Minh's House Picasa Web Albums - Cathy Perkins - 2011 Nakhon P...
Nakhon Phanom - Wat Prathat Phanom Picasa Web Albums - Cathy Perkins - 2011 Nakhon P...
Dinosaur Footprints & Nong Khai Picasa Web Albums - Cathy Perkins - 2011 Dinosaur...
Khon Kaen Picasa Web Albums - Cathy Perkins - 2011 Khon Kaen
Udon Thani, Nong Prachak Park & General Photos Picasa Web Albums - Cathy Perkins - 2011 Udon Tha...