Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Dilemma 7/1/07

Our original plan was to go straight to Nong-Khai from BKK and cross to Laos, to its capital - Vientiane.
Due to our 'fast' progress and Gals wishes, we detoured straight east, crossing Isan, adding about 800 km along the Mekong.
After 2 weeks along the Mekong, we reached Nong-Khai, our final destination in Thailand.
As previous posts show, we enjoyed the beauty of the river and cycling near it. We saw we can continue west of Nong-Khai, on the river bank, till the point where the Mekong turns north, into Laos (We hope to take this route, if there is a road, when in Laos).
So, we decided to postpone Laos for a week (we still have over 20 days visa in Thailand, and its still winter in China) and cycle west.
We left Nong-Khai at noon, after updating our blog for you guys (and for us). After 20 km of a monotonous, unimpressive road, Rami popped the question: “Why should we continue? I’m ready for Laos!”.
Gal was in state of shock! Not because of the horrible idea, but because of the surprise. WE HAD A PLAN! And now, just like that – change it?
We stopped at the nearest shop, to discuss the situation and drink a coke. Gal agreed that the scenery (for the last 20 km) was far from the best, the road was not so fun and just across the river was waiting for us mysterious Laos! (Gal has been several times to Thailand, but never to any other south-east Asia country). On the other hand, crossing to Laos meant leaving the Mekong for some time, leaving Thailand till who knows when, and most sad – leaving Thai food behind…
We decided we’ll stop somewhere early (Rami insisted Gal will have another night in our beloved tent, on the Mekong) and ‘sleep’ on the dilemma.
We found a beautiful, small road; just on the river and then Gal fell! She stopped the bike and fell to the left side (not even on the road) and barely got some bruises (mom, don’t worry, all OK) and got a bit stressed about cycling (“what will I do in the real mountains?”).
We continued and for some reason (probably our love to ‘big’ cities) we continued to the closest town (maybe 10,000 people).
We arrived to the town after dark, looking for a Wat on the river bank. On the Laos side we saw a big, serious hotel, surrounded by lights of a relatively big city. We were surprised of the existence of another big city on the Mekong, in Laos (except for Vientiane, the capital).
The Wat we found didn’t let us in and sent the dogs at us. A local couple, who tried helping us, took us to another Wat, but it was not positioned on the Mekong. Being picky, we thanked them and sent them off, and cut back to the Mekong, where we saw a border-police station, right on the river bank (the border!!!).
After a short introduction (including our ‘camping letter’) we were accepted as their own. We decided to eat first, so one of the officers took the roll of leading us (with his scooter) to a specific restaurant, one of a dozen, spread on the promenade. We were a bit worried about a stranger choosing a restaurant for us – too expensive? Too simple (only noodle soup)? Etc. but we had no choice, he was too kind.
We reached the restaurant; exactly the kind of place we could have asked for: a simple, local place, with a wok and wide noodles. We asked our famous question: “array alloy?” (What tasty?). We ordered some dishes and were shown to a small table across the road, on the empty promenade. At the table next to us were sitting 4 young girls, with their ice coffee and sweets, enjoying the soft music (as opposed to extreme loud music, the typical local preference, or 3 drunken men, ‘karaoking’ the others to death). There was no beer in that fine establishment, making it a coffee shop (Gal noticed), so Gal was pointed to the shop next door.
While waiting for the food, looking at the big city on the opposite bank, we were told that’s Vientiane. We were a bit puzzled and embarrassed, for not noticing that Vientiane is situated 30 km west of Nong-Khai – just opposite of Si-Chiang Mai, our current location!
We were enjoying our romantic, tasty dinner, inspecting Vientiane (were we will be in a few days), with all its lights shimmering on the river, while an almost full moon, bright red, rose from just behind the city.
The beautiful evening, after an exhausting day, brought the dilemma to an end: we’ll stay in Thailand a few more days, on the Mekong.
We cycled back to the border-police station, quickly build our tent, had a hot shower, thanks to the same officer, who boiled a bucket for us, had delicious Chinese tea and hot coco and went to sleep, watching the moon through our tent.
We woke up to another beautiful sunrise on the river (again). A cup of coffee was waiting for Gal with a small baguette (thanks to the same officer). Due to the proximity to Laos, a former French colony, they have here baguettes.


Sunset over Nong-Khai

Moon rises over Vientiane (during our romantic dinner)

Coconut tree.

West from Nong-Khai