Nong Khai: Balancing planks

Peaceful.Unspoilt.Calm

The town of Nong Khai is conveniently located across the ‘friendship bridge’ on the Thai side of the Mekong. On this occasion it wasn’t so convenient for us as we’d travelled to Thakhek, and crossed over a border further south meaning we didn’t reach the town via the friendship bridge and instead had to sit on a local bus for eight hours to get there. Luckily we found a really nice place to stay (Mut Mee) which had a great location by the Mekong River with a lovely sunset every night and beautiful gardens to enjoy it all from. We soon settled back into Thai life, it feels like returning home in a weird sort of way. I think because we spent six weeks in the country previously (before doing the Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos circuit) a lot of stuff is familiar to us which is what gives it a sense of home away from home. It’s nice.

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Our first day was spent exploring the nearby surroundings as always seems to be the case. We discovered the local market, found the 7 eleven and found the good food street to eat on. Other than that we enjoyed relaxing in the gardens at Mut Mee, making the most of not having to travel around for a little while. The following day we decided to go to the sculpture park and chose to walk there… At 5kms each way on a particularly hot day it didn’t seem like the best decision mid-walk, so we had a pitstop to enjoy strawberry slush and yoghurt drinks. This is where we remembered that we eat a lot in Thailand. Everything tastes so good!

The sculpture park was a good way to spend a day, and it is as the name suggests- a park of sculptures. It seemed mostly Hindu inspired with many of the gods being represented in sculpture form, there were also lots of elephant statues and a snake statue with many heads. Other than statues there was a temple in the middle of the park and a small lake swamped with the same big ugly fish we saw in Ayutthaya. We embarked on our 5km walk back in the heat which left us with very sun kissed faces by the end of the day. That evening we had a stroll round the weekend market and managed to find a pie stall (queue jokes based on the northern girl finding the pie stand…) and got ourselves a slab of apple pie as well as lots of Thai delights.

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The next day we did the thing that we’d come to Nong Khai to do. When in Bangkok months earlier we found a magazine in a little cafe that had an article about a place called Phu Tok which is about four hours outside of Nong Khai. It looked mighty interesting so we added it onto our to-do list and the day had come to tick it off. It was a long motorbike ride there but it was worth it when we arrived. Set amongst fields of green all around with the odd teeny little town here and there, is a gigantic rock pertruding out of the ground as if from nowhere. Built onto this rock are a series of walkways that lead to the top. The reason behind these walkways apparently stems from a monk who built them by himself as a way to achieve enlightenment. Each walkway represents the paths to enlightenment with the final part being reaching the top which isn’t accessible by walkway and instead is a climb, similar to the solo effort of achieving enlightenment. Or something like that. We did the climb to the top on the nerveracking walkways. We couldn’t figure out how on earth this walkway was built, the little wooden supports stick out from the rocks balancing planks of wood to form the path. At times I daren’t look down as the sheer drop underneath combined with the rotting wood I was standing on were not a good combination for my nerves. That being said when we were on more solid ground it gave time to appreciate the views that lay in front of us. There was so much green for as far as you could see, it was so beautiful and so refreshing to see a landscape so untouched. Well worth the climb!

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It was a long motorbike ride back and an uneventful night of packing as we had an early start the next morning to catch the bus for our next destination. We had initially planned to head north in Thailand after Nong Khai but these plans soon changed after a conversation with Chris’ cousin Mike who was in Thailand on the island of Koh Phangan.
Hooray for travelling on a whim!

Sawatdee!

Photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/127744759@N08/r36i48

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