Updates from a Mekong River ride. Feb 2014

Posted: April 7, 2015 in Mekong River Ride 2014
Tags: , ,

Bangkok, Udon Thani and Nong Khai

So my wife and I did this Mekong ride in early February and I pondered long and hard about writing a journal about a route that has been done in both directions by many others here. Then I thought, maybe not, and that’s how this ‘update’ in an article came about.On the ground it was an update for me too as I rode some parts of our route in 2007. We also drove around this particular stretch on the Mekong in 2010, but that isn’t quite cycling although I had a Bike Friday tikit in the trunk of a Toyota Vios that did 2400 kms in 8 days.

The rough plan was to start in Nong Khai, then spend 2 days in Vientiane, back to Nong Khai and head west along Route 211 through Tha Bo, Si Chiangmai, Sang Khom, Pak Chom and Chiang Khan. After Chiang Khan it’s further west along the 2195 to the Tha LI (Thai) / Nam Heuang (Laos) border crossing near Ban Pak Huai and eventually to Dan Sai and even further south on the 203 to Lom Sak and a few of the scenic National Parks in that region.

I guess the routes are easy enough to plot when cycling but I’ll list out the gems that we encountered, namely places to stay and eat, a couple of bike shops just in case, with other info that may be of use to those cycling this beautiful part of Thailand. Don’t take these as the Gospel truth though, because as right as rain things can and will change. Find your own plan A and take my tips here as a Plan B.

We flew from Singapore to Bangkok with a connecting flight to Udon Thani in north east Thailand. A 12 hour day from leaving home at 9.30 am and checking in our guesthouse at 9.30 pm.

Having been to Thailand umpteen times, here is what the benchmark Thb 500 room will get you with a few variables like, location in town or countryside, other competitors and age of the premises thrown into the mix.

1. Single or double bedded room. In some places single = one single queen or king sized bed and double = 2 beds. Quite the opposite. Better places will have nicer sheets and comforters. No sunken mattresses and rickety beds (for us) Proper wardrobe and hangers, desks and seating areas are a bonus, as well as balconies.

P1120050

The 2nd floor. There’s a breakfast of sorts. Sliced bread, butter ? No margarine, jam, instant coffee, and lots of cutlery if you want to ‘dine in’ plus a hot water boiler and a microwave oven. Right outside our room. All the rooms actually have space for 3, one double and one single bed. Amazing at Thb 500 / 2 persons. We had to pre book this place due to our late arrival and the proverbial ‘high season’ jitters but as it turned out we were the only guests. Otherwise, I’d rather cycle in and let the owners have the whole Thb 500, instead of booking.com taking a cut of 10 – 15 %.

2. A standard clean bathroom and western toilet. A separate shower stall is not the norm. 2 bath towels. Soap and shampoo. Toilet paper.

P1120068

No complaints, well kept and spotless. Shower head close by, a small issue if you want a dry toilet seat (in Thailand)

3. All important air conditioning. Those without AC cost even less but how far can one go down from Thb 500 ? Maybe a hundred less.

4. Fridge. De rigueur in most places, but not all. A kettle/pot contraption to boil water. Bottled water x 2. If there’s none, it means a saving of US30-50 cents for the operators and also says a lot about their business practices. Others are just angels, giving us unlimited bottles seeing we arrived on bikes.

5. In this day and age, fast and free wifi throughout the premises. Not just at the lobby areas.

6. In this day and age too, a flat screen TV. Most are now linked by satellite and if you still have energy after a more than 100 km day of cycling, there’s 400 channels to doze off to.

7. Bicycle space in the room or at least a secured place on the premises.

8. In Thailand, a resident dog or cat hanging around outside your room. Helps a lot when touring solo.

PanGH  in Nong Khai by the Mekong River.

PanGH in Nong Khai by the Mekong River. http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/pan-guesthouse.html Right on the Nong Khai promenade facing the Mekong. 6 rooms on the 2nd floor. A larger room at the back has enough beds for 5 or 6 people. A small balcony out front ensures that all guests can sit outside and gawk at Laos across the water, as well as a Saturday night market. Sweet. This is a few moments before sunrise.

P1120054

A messy exterior but it’s on a riverside promenade. The small exterior on a 15 deg C morning. It was down to 8 C the week before. There also another place Baan Mae Rim Nam about 100 metres upstream ie west with just as helpful people as Pan. In Thai you’ll need to drag the As as in Paaaaan with a Californian accent. We tried Pan as in frying pan. It didn’t really work the night before asking for it’s location.

If spending upwards of Thb 500, here’s what might happen (though not all the time) If these are included, they’re just nice touches that will make your stay a bit more pleasant.

1. Breakfast. Has to be simple. No huge buffets, c’mon unless you find a Westin in the middle of nowhere. Usually it’s a DIY help yourself to the bread and toast it yourself deal. Jam and butter and sachets of coffee/tea. Just enough to make 10-20 kms to a proper eatery or 7/11 to fill up again.

2. Balcony. (aka, smoking area) Where they might have the AC compressor bolted at the top. Perfect place for drying laundry with hot air blowing down.

3. A free standing room /cabin/ chalet /bungalow in concrete or wood or both. Usually found in countryside resorts. Basically, more space, and privacy, maybe a nice garden and rural/mountain views. At Thb 500, the resort part is stretched a bit thin, but it works. In Thai, it is more like ‘Lesort’ Found near border areas, National Parks or some place scenic like along the Mekong River. Owners or family usually on site. Some might be interested in your travels, if they have many cycle tourers passing through.

4. In urban areas (read competition) maybe a nice building with a lift/elevator if more than 5 floors. Key card access, secure bike parking at a parking lot (not always) Not always agreeable to having bikes in the room. Contact is with front desk employees only. Can be sticky with check out times and paranoid about wifi passwords. Sheesh.

5. The ubiquitous Love Hotel. Mostly in the countryside. Not as seedy as imagined. People need their privacy. Some are even married and to each other (like us !!!) Tacky multi coloured cabins, interior design, mood lighting, lights that dim, transparent bathroom doors and strategic mirrors here and there. At one place we left our bikes outside, unlocked. Not all have wifi, but hey there are more important matters at hand.

Proximity to massage is always a bonus !

Proximity to massage is always a bonus !

http://www.bangkokpost.com/lifestyle/10771_info_daeng-namnueng.html

P1120110

As well as food !

5

Entering Laos. Fill in the forms. Go through passport control at the back. Make a U turn. Get on bikes and go. Simple as that !

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s