The Accidental Traveler


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Asia » Thailand » North-East Thailand » Nong Khai
December 3rd 2009
Published: December 13th 2009
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Aaaaaaargh!
Can I swear? Please? No? Well alright, but I very, very much want to right now. Have been sitting here trying to catch up with this blog (how on earth did I get so far behind?) and the blasted computer has just gone and erased my one remaining memory card. I'll say it again - Aaaargh! Now I have no photo's at all from the last 3 months, not a single blimmin one! Of course, there's a lesson in there somewhere but am darned if I'm in the mood to learn it right now. Hindsight is not a wonderful thing, it's a snide and smug little devil and I'm chosing to ignore it until I'm less cross. Anyway, small rant over I shall try to continue the blog in a reasonable fashion.

So, having departed Sangklaburi confident I would settle on a final destination in good time I found myself standing in Mochit bus station (Bangkok) still with nary a clue as to where to go. All the places I wanted to see had to be ruled out as it would mean either a long wait In Bangkok (I'd spent quite enough time here already thanks), or arriving at stupid o'clock in the morning and then trying to wake up some slumbering hotel owner in the hope of a bed. Anyway, to cut a long (and ridiculously complicated) story short, fate stepped in and chose a destination for me. Phimai, an ancient Khmer ruin housed in a town of the same name. Best of all it was but a mere 5 hours away and I could catch a bus from the very same station I was at. Hurrah!

Buying a ticket to Phimai turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. Who knew bus stations could be so large? There were 3 floors of 100's of ticket offices, all of which helpfully displayed their destinations in Thai script only (darn my lack of dedication to learning this language prior to leaving). It took me just under an hour to find the correct ticket office. Having found it at last I was not particularly overjoyed to discover the next bus was not until 8.30pm, meaning I'd have a 5 hour wait in Bangkok AND arrive 1.30am with no hotel booked. However, given the effort involved in getting this far I grudgingly handed over the cash for the ticket. The irony of the situation was not lost me I can assure you, and it did little to improve my my mood as I settled down to await that bus.

True enough come:
1.45am I was to be found standing forlornly beside a deserted highway at Phimai.
1.50am I set off in search of some accommodation.
1.55am saw me escorted in my search by a pack of barking dogs.
2.00am I turned to quiet said dogs.
2.01am saw me escorted in my search by a pack of snarling and growling dogs (oops!).
2.10am saw me preparing for a night in the open, having given up on my search (the map showed several hotels but I, with my superb map reading ability, found not a one) thanks mainly to the ever increasing hostility of my escort (who thankfully quickly settled to sleep around me, albeit with one eye open).
3.00am saw me being manhandled into a taxi by a young man who'd arrived from nowhere (honestly, I never heard him till he was stood beside me jangling a car key at me, he certainly never drove up that's for sure)
3.20am saw me settling down to sleep in a lovely comfy hotel bed. rather embarrassingly the hotel was only just around the corner from where I'd made camp. I could have walked there in less than 10 minutes had I but known where it was (and not had my less than friendly escort helping me in my search).

The next day I set off on foot to find the temple. For over an hour I wandered in circles getting more and more cross with the stupid guidebook and it's useless map. The temple was nowhere to be found and asking the locals elicited a general arm waving in a direction that agreed with my useless map. I did eventually find it but only because a local taxi driver flagged me down in the street and announced he would drive me. I hadn't actually said where I wanted to go but I suspect he'd been sent to fetch my by the bemused locals who were keen to be rid of this mad woman who chose to sleep in the open (when there were perfectly serviceable hotels just around the corner) and then stomps angrily round the streets asking for directions but then ignoring the advice she's given.

Turns out I was at least 2km away from where I thought I was which accounts for my inability to find anything using the map. Anyhow, thanks to my unintentional malingering I got to the temple when all the tour groups were off having lunch and so had it all to myself for a glorious 45mins. It was glorious, in every aspect and I soon forgot the frustrations of late and lost myself in wonder.

Temple lust reawakened I had no trouble deciding on my next destination. Phnom Rung, an even larger Khmer ruin called me and I came running, or tried to at least. A small lapse in concentration on my part however meant I found myself winging my way not to Nang Rong (small town very near Phnom Rung) as planned, but rather to Nong Khai (a slightly larger town on the Thai Laos border). Alas I have no one but myself to blame for this (which is always very annoying) for I did indeed ask for a ticket to Nong Khai, I am (as ever) my own worst enemy and I berated myself severely for the last 5 hours of that bus trip (it took me 2 hours to cotton onto my error - quick on the uptake as ever).

Nong Khai, despite being over 600km from Nang Rong, was quite a charming little town marred only by the rampant sex tourism on evident display. For a day or two I lingered, toying with the idea of heading into Laos (after all, surely the fates were pointing me in that direction?) but eventually decided against as to allow enough time to do the country justice I'd have gad to take a very expensive flight. Instead I caught a train to Ayutthaya, ancient capital of Thailand and home to a vast array of ruined temples.

I surprised myself here and actually hired a bike to cycle round the ruins. Thanks to Ayautthaya being completely flat is was actually dead easy to cycle here, except for the really scary traffic that is. I ventured to 5 temples and then ran out of steam, my temple lust exhausted once again. Next day I caught the sleeper train to Trang (which, incidentally, had the most comfortable bed of my entire trip!) from whence I'd make my way to Turatao national park for a week or so of lazing in the sun. Or so I thought anyway...



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