Back to Bangkok

Pazu spent quite a neat two hours last night to try to stitch the net, with some success. But Pazu decided to go, so we took the morning train 138 at 10:04 from Udon Thani to Bangkok, costed B155 for Pazu (and free for Kong Junior). Because of the size of our bike we couldn't take another express train (which was B20 more expensive only and travelled 3 hours less). And because we had not only a bike but also a rot-puan (trailer), we needed to buy two more cargo tickets (B76 each). The train was slow, it took about 12 hours to cover the whole 550km from Udon Thani to Bangkok. At 21:44 (14 minutes delayed) Pazu went out of the station at Hualampong (Bangkok), some tuk-tuk drivers came and wanted to sell a ride, but we were proud to have our own transportation. Some hotel touts came and wanted to sell a room, but we were proud that somebody would come to pick us up. It was Oat, it was so happy to see him again. (Thailand: Udon Thani to Bangkok by train, 20050531-00159)


Unexpected broke-in

Five months ago we had rid our bike from Udon Thani to Bangkok (twice!), so we decided to take a train this time. Another to come back to Bangkok was because of the serious problem of our bike. It was quite a long story but to make it brief, the chainring shifter of our bike was broken, which meant that we couldn't change the chainring, or to make it simple, now we have 8 gears instead of the original 24. For the past few weeks, Pazu rid the bike as if he was riding uphill all the time, turning all the gears very low, and it almost felt like nothing when he touched the paddle. Not only a change was needed, he actually wanted an overhaul of the whole bicycle. So, back to Bangkok. Not but not least another reason to go back to BKK was to see Oat and Ah-Ching. :D Pazu actually felt quite excited at the thought of seeing them again. Five months ago when we left Thailand, we thought we would see them after two years, everything was unexpected in life! Another unexpected event happened this afternoon, while we were away from the temple we were camping, somebody torn apart the mosquito net of our tent, Pazu came back at night and immediately checked to see if there were anything lost... nothing! Even the coins we left inside the tent was safe... but why? Why broke in and left everything there intact? The monks there told us if we decided to stay here tomorrow we should move to a hall nearer to their wuti (residential hall for monks). (Thailand: Udon Thani, 20050530-00158)


Udon Thani

Perhaps it's because of the tranquility of Ban Chiang, or the comfort of the Lakeside Sunrise Guesthouse, we stayed at this small village for 3 nights and enjoyed it a lot, but time is short so here we go. We arrived in Udon Thani, this is the largest city we'd seen since Hue (of Vietnam), traffic was getting crazier and we didn't like it, oh but we will be back in Bangkok soon! We went to have a buffet dinner tonight, 50B per person and we had tried our best to stuff our stomach full. STAY: Wat Atsurawitan (aka Wat Nong Bua), right in front of the Nong Bua lake in the western end of town. (Thailand: Ban Chiang to Udon Thani, 56.48km, 20050528-00157)


Ban Chiang II

One of the major significance of Ban Chiang World Heritage was that it have successful upset the traditional theories concerning the origins of copper and bronze technologies. It had been thought that the use of bronze had originated in the Middle East, but discoveries in and around Ban Chiang indicate that bronze technology was known there as early as 4500 BC, the technological advancement seemed to be one of the earliest in the world. One of the most stunning and beautiful patterns amongst all the artefacts found here were, however, the so-called red-on-buff painting on pottery. Now it's the symbol of Ban Chiang, you can see it in every souvenir shop (though not too many tourists...), schools, or even on the cover of the drainage pipe. This picture was taken at a souvenir shop near Ban Pulu. (Thailand: Ban Chiang, 20050527-00156)


Ban Chiang World Heritage

We had been to Udon Thani twice but didn't have a chance to come to Ban Chiang, a UNESCO's World Heritage. So here we are now, we won't want to miss this chance again. Ban Chiang is about 600km NE of Bangkok, over the past villagers here always found some strange old pottery under the ground when they were building houses or digging water wells, in 1966 a young Harvard student whose name was Stephen Young, who turned out to be the son of the American Ambassador to Bangkok, came to study sociology in Ban Chiang. One day by a funny accident he discovered these old pottery, and sent them to the University of Pennysylvania, the lab results showed that these artefacts were more than 6000 years old. The break of news attracted a wave of foreigners and rich Bangkok businessmen or collectors rushing to this small village to loot or buy these old stuff. Some villagers basically relied on this trade to support not only their living, but also sending kids to school. In 1972, the Thai King made a royal visit here and tried to ask people to stop these illegal tradings, the Thai government set up new laws and so most of the looting stopped, or went underground. In 1992 Ban Chiang was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage, and now they have a National Museum, and an open museum at a nearby temple which had some skeletons displaying quite unceremonially. STAY: Lakeside Sunrise Guesthouse, 200B for a single room with shower room outside, Pii Tong Ovenden the owner gave us a discount of 50B. Address: 153/2 Nong Han, Ban Chiang, Udon Thani 41320. Tel: 042-208167(Thailand: Si That to Ban Chiang, 68.46km, 20050525-00155)


Si That

Today's ride was pretty but uneventful, we rid on a side road passing through some beautiful and quiet villages, quite a reminder of Laos, but the road was in perfect condition. We chose to stay at a place called Si That because on my Nellie's map Si That Town is situated right on the northern side of a lake (or reservoir), but to our disappointment, the lake was actually quite far away from town, and camping next to a lake wasn't really desirable... we camped at the town's wat tonight. (Thailand: Ban Tham Pla to Si That, 77.46km, 20050524-00154)


Isan Jurassic Park

A few days again when we entered the boundary of Kalasin Province, we were greeted by an interesting road sign quite frequently, it was the "Isan Jurassic Park". We didn't want to go there at the very beginning, but after seeing the same signboard again and again for every 3 or 4 kms, you can't help but wondering what's there. So we set off for Amphoe Sahat Sakhan today from Kalasin, on the road we saw some warning saying, "NOTICE: DINOSAURS ON ROAD!", but the Jurassic Park itself was very disappointing, it's actually just a museum only. A staff at the research center said, "the governor of Kalasin Province thought it could attract more visitors by naming it Jurassic Park..." A few years ago they discovered some dinosaur fossils here, the story goes like this, "Phra Yanavisarn, abbot of Sakkawan temple in Amphoe Sahat Sakhan, recalled seeing while in meditation the vision of large, long necked animals roaming the area in groups. One day after a heavy rainfall, he found many pieces of bones in a pit." And it turned out that this site has the largest concentration of dinosaur fossils found in Thailand. STAY: Wat Tham Pla at Ban Tham Pla. (Thailand: Kalasin to Ban Tham Pla, 49.00km, 20050523-00153)


Wan Wisakabucha

We planned to leave today but we were awaken up by loud speakers this morning, lots of people coming to the temple. We were told that it was the Wan Wisakabucha Festival! There was only one float for this festival, with some young girl and a khatoey dressed as Indians. Wisakabucha Day is the day when Lord Buddha was born, enlightened and attained nirvana, in the evening more and more pilgrims came to walk clockwise around the temple. (Thailand: Kalasin, 20050522-00152)


Government Exam

We had breakfast in Roi Et before leaving, the restaurant owner had a bicycle with Shimano XT gear so naturally we had a nice chat for a while, he refused to take our money when we asked for the bill. Thais are friendly and helpful, sometimes they gave us discount, or invited us for food, a situation like this are still quite rare, thanks Mr Sriyon Selim! We followed the highway and made a short tour to the ancient town of Muang Fa Deat Sung Yung, they have a chedi (tower) which seems to have some historical and religious importance. We had a big surprise when we arrived in Kalasin (our destination today). All guesthouses and hotels are full again! "Are there any festival?" Pazu asked. The receptionist said there was no festival, just a government exam. Students around Kalasin Province flocked to the provincial capital to take the exam tomorrow. What could we do? We went to the biggest monastery in this town, Wat Klang, and camped there again. (Thailand: Roi Et to Kalasin, 66.81km 20050521-00151)


Roi Et

After staying at Yasothon for more than a week, it's time to start our trip again. We cycled for a short distance to Roi Et, an unimportant yet very pleasant small town (again, "small" in Thailand are actually quite big already). In the town center is the city pillar sitting right in the middle of a lake Bung Phalan Chai, near the lake is a temple which stands the highest standing Buddha in Thailand, you just can't miss it because you can see this high Buddha almost everywhere in town. We don't know the 3 boys in the picture, but right in front of the temple is a primary school, these 3 boys just came and asked us to take a pic of them, after Pazu showed them their photo in the digital camera's LCD, they were happy and said goodbye. STAY: Buathong Hotel, 120B for a room with bathroom, quite a good value, near Bung Phalan Chai Lake. Tel: 511142. (Thailand: Yasothon to Roi Et, 71.55km, 20050520-00150)


Samanen Ben and Top

In Thailand man before 20 years old can't be a monk, once they are ordained they are called "samanen" (a Pali word means Novice), if they choose to continue to serve in the temple when they get older, they will, however, have to serve for the army first when they are 20 years old. There are 12 young samanens in the temple (Wat Tai) where I stayed, but Pazu liked two of them most. One is named Ben, a very considerate young samanen who seemed to be quite different from many others, and behave more like an adult, just wonder what he would be in the future. The other is a fat samanen named Top who always has some funny ways to make us laughing out so loud. Here's a pic of them, taken in front of the weehan (main hall) of Wat Tai. (Thailand: Yasothon, 20050519-00149)


Rocket Festival II

It's the major day for the festival, the Rocket Launching Day. We moved to the Rocket Launching Field (yes, they even have some ads with words like "NASA"). In an area clearly marked as "Dangerous Zone" was some giant rockets, many people and photographers just sat as near as possible, it looked very dangerous, a few years ago some people died when a rocket launched into a wrong direction. The second picture is the novice monks (samanen) at the temple who enjoyed a day full of rockets next to their temple hall. (Thailand: Yosothon, 20050515-00148)


Rocket Festival I

Yosothon is a small provincial town, but it's actually bigger than any other towns in Laos already. It's typical Thailand indeed. But the Rocket Festival is such a major event that all hotels in this small town were full, so we camped at a temple called Wat Dai. This is a photo from the first day of the parade, with floats and people dressing with all kinds of festival moods: Traditional Thai, Xmas, Halloween, even Gay Pride is included (but drag queens probably aren't very "special" in Thailand). STAY: Wat Dai, camping at the temple because everywhere was full! (Thailand: Yosothon, 20050514-00147)


That Phanom

Just 56km away from Nakhon Phanom is one of the 4 most sacred Buddhist shrines in Thailand, it's That Phanom (Mountain Stupa). It's a very old stupa, claimed to have more than 2000 years of history, but it was collapsed after 3 days of continuous raining in 1975, people were frightened and thought it as a very bad omen, the King came here to comfort the people. Miss Niyana, owner of a guesthouse, said, "Some people stole the precious stones of the collapsed stupa, they then died of accident, I rented a house before, my guests kept saying they saw an old woman..." STAY: Niyana Guesthouse, 100B for a room without toilet, Miss Niyana can speak very good English. Address: 65 Moo 14 Soi Weethesawrachon, That Phanom. Her address kept changing all the time... (Thailand: Nakhon Phanom to That Phanom, 56.15km, 20050510-00146)


Ho's house

Nakhon Phanom has a large population of Thai with Vietnamese ancesters, even the national hero Uncle Ho Chi Minh stayed here for 3 years from 1928. His house is now turned into a museum, most Thais don't care much, most visitors are either Vietnamese Thai, or Vietnamese from Vietnam, or some veterans of American imperialists, all are welcomed wholeheartedly however. (Thailand: Nakhon Phanom, 20050509-00145)


High school

We visited a high school here called Piyamaharachalai, the name is really long. They have an English Department and the teachers invited us to the class (with Pazu's bicycle) and talked to the students about our trip. We went to 3 classes, then sometimes when we walked on the street, we could hear people saying, "Hey, this is a Chinese guy who's been travelling in 4 countries in 4 months by bicycle!" Nakhon Phanom is a really small city, everybody seems to know each other well. (Thailand: Nakhon Phanom, 20050503-00144)


The Mekong again!

We crossed the Mekong River again! But this time from Laos to Thailand, people here always said "one river, two Lao people", the people on the other side of the river in the Thai side are... well... richer. We saw more upmarket bicycles here. We met some cyclists here along the riverside, most of them are students from a high school. Today is the last day of the long vacation, tomorrow will be the new semester day. We'll go and have a look. STAY: First Hotel, 160 baht (US$4) for a simple room, central location, okay value. The receptionist Mr Smonr Phongpha lent us 1000baht because it's holiday today and all banks closed! Address: 16 Srithep Road, Amphoe Muang, Nakhon Phanom. Tel: 042511253. (Thailand: Thakek to Nakhon Phanom, 3.24km, 20050502-00143)