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My friend Henk Landkroon, from Groningen in the Netherlands, has an excellent photoblog: STORMBLAST1953

Monday, April 16, 2012

Central Laos

We took a short road trip through central Laos over the Songkran (Thai New Year) holiday. This was our fourth road trip through Laos. We planned to enjoy the Mekong River, Lao food, drive to the Vietnam border and see some of the remote conservation areas.

We took one day to drive from Korat to Nakhon Phanom in Thailand and then over the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge to the Lao city of Tha Kaek.

We stayed at the Sook Sombun Hotel in Tha Kaek. This building was once the headquarters of the French Colonial Police.

The inside of the hotel is rather interesting. Sort of an odd art deco.

Tha Kaek has many fine old colonial era buildings. As far as I know, this lovely corner spot is vacant.

I always enjoy a sunset Beer Lao on the Mekong River.

Sunset on the Mekong. Across the river is the Thai city of Nakhon Phanom.

Nothing like some fresh Lao coffee for breakfast.

This lady is making Banh Mi Paté sandwiches for us. The baguettes are smeared with paté and then filled with pork, vegetables and special sauce.

The baguettes are crisped up in this charcoal fired oven.

More Lao coffee with patongko: Chinese style donuts. 

From Tha Kaek we headed north on Higway 13 and then east on Highway 8 where we saw this fine bamboo house.

Limestone Karst topography is the main landform in this part of Laos. The mountains can be beautiful and spectacular and full of caves.

Some of the bridges on Highway 8 are a bit dodgy.

This beautiful house is roofed with wooden shingles.

Viewpoint over the Phou Hi Poun National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area.

"Bomb Boats" made from Vietnam war ordinance. This on the Nam Theun River.

Thai customs and immigration control at the border with Vietnam.

Small village on Highway 8.

Small fuel filling station.

The lovely city of Lak Sao. Incredibly dusty. Our intent was to drive south from here on Lao Highway 1E. Unfortunately, the road was in horrible shape. After a half hour of bone rattling driving over miserable cobble stones we gave up and turned around.

Instead we "discovered" Highway 1D. The turnoff was not marked and we had no idea where we were going. It turned out to be a spectacular drive.

Along Highway 1D

Along Highway 1D, the Nam Theun River.

Although the road is new, it is already being destroyed by landslides, slumps and wear.

My guess is that the highway was built to facilitate logging along the edge of the Nam Kading National Bio-Diversity Conservation Area.

Highway 1D.

Kids playing in the river off of Highway 1D. Note all the prayer flags planted in the sandbar to the upper right.

Highway 1D.

Wat Phou Vieng Thong Xay Ya Ram. These temple worshipers were celebrating the Songkran (New Year) holiday. The bowls contain flower water which will be gently poured over Buddha images in sort of a symbolic cleansing and sign of respect. In many places in Thailand, Laos and China this gentle water pouring has evolved into more of a lively water fight.

These young men were ready to blast me with their water canons. I held out my cupped palms as an elder would do, so instead of blasting they gently squirted water in to my hands.

Highway 1D.

The end of the road for us. This bridge over the Nam Theun River is still under construction. We decided this would be a good place to end our journey and head back for Tha Kaek.

Headed back.

Rice barns along Highway 1D.

This lady was in a group of young people who waved our car to a halt. The bowl is filled with small paper flowers. They pinned one flower each to our shirts and asked for a donation to their temple.

Back in Tha Kaek. Lovely Lao food. Sin Namtok (grilled beef) in the foreground. Larb Moo (spicy pork salad) on the right.

The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge #3. This is where you switch from driving on the right (Laos) to driving on the left (Thailand).

The Thai Immigration authorities set up a small Buddha shrine so that travelers could pay their respects to Buddha images in the traditional manner.

Amazon coffee shop with waterfall at a PTT Park filling station. Always good coffee in a nice atmosphere.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Songkran in Korat 2012 - Mukkamontree Road, Tambon Banmai

We did a road trip to Laos and returned home yesterday. This weekend is the traditional Thai New Year: Songkran. The holiday is supposed to be about renewal and showing respect for Buddha images and one's elders by gently pouring water over them. The holiday has transformed into one giant water fight.

The last kilometer of our 600 kilometer drive home was along Mukkamontee Road, the main street in our area. It took us about a half hour to drive that short distance. Here's what we saw: