Tom, from Tomrollingstone.com, and I got together for another roadtrip with a primary purpose of going to Mukdahan at the end of the Rains Retreat (usually incorrectly called the end of Buddhist Lent) to watch the Thai/Lao boat races on the Mekhong River.
Tom and Daeng had us booked into a very good location for the races and the Indo-China market if we wanted to do some shopping – Huanam Hotel (Hua Nam, Hua Num). Basic accommodations with A/C, refrigerator and hot water shower for 450 baht.
Unfortunately, the boat races were cancelled after hearing the bad news that the King of Thailand had passed away. There were also some minor festivities in Mukdahan – ferris wheel, games of chance (pop balloons to win stuffed animals) that were also shut down.
Undeterred, Tom and I were determined to make the best of the roadtrip. Fortunately, Tom knows Isaan like the back of his hand and we had made some tentative plans for mini day trips around Mukdahan.
So, we decided to only spend two nights in Mukdahan and wing it the rest of the time.
The first day was mainly spent walking around Mukdahan and then out for some street food. As much as I don’t like exhaust fumes with my meal, we had one place we wanted to check out – and glad we did – Bull Burger.
This place is a converted van that sells burgers, fries, onion rings and few other items and very good prices and was exceptionally good. The bull burger I had with bacon and cheese was delicious. The owner, Kai, was a young entrepeneur with a good location, Thai-French beef and a plan to open a real restaurant soon.
So, the morning of the 14th, we decided to do some sightseeing until we could get confirmation that the boat races were either on or cancelled.
We went to a couple of old airfields, Phu Mu Forest Park, and then on to Wat Pa Wang Nam Thip.
This was a bit of a strange temple with Thai Buddhism mixed in with some Hinduism and even a very portly Buddha. Lots of strange statues also.
On the 15th, we headed for That Phanom making a few stops along the way.
First stop was at the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
Visited another temple and then went on to Our Lady of the Martyrs Thailand Shrine.
From there it was on to another temple and then to That Phanom.
I was here with Tom a few years ago and, compared to then, the temple grounds were practically empty with very, very few food vendors around.
We were up early for the short drive to Nakhon Phanom where we hoped the Illuminated Boat festival would still be going on. Nope.
Some of the boats were still there, but no show at night.
We did visit St. Anna’s Church and walked around along the Mekhong River.
Then a short walk to Wat Maha That.
We managed to find a tuk-tuk driver near the TC Hotel who knew where we could buy beer on this auspicious day and even found a restaurant, the Frying Dutchman, where we could order beer with our meal.
The 17th it was back to Sakon Nakhon for my last night. Tom stretched a 30 minute drive to a 3 hour sightseeing tour.
First was a short walk along the Mekhong.
Next up was the newest Ho Chi Minh museum. Unfortunately, we were way too early to get in.
Next up was Wat Phra That Maha Chai.
And, then, sometimes, just driving down the road you come across “stuff” with no markers, no explanation at all.
We made a brief stop at the Thai So Museum.
Then it was on to St. Michael’s Cathredal in Tha Rae, Sakon Nakhon. There are quite a few Catholic churches in the area and my guess is that it is because there are many Vietnamese living here.
From here, it was on to the Dusit Hotel in Sakon Nakhon for the night. Again, another basic room with A/C, refrigerator, TV for 600 baht. Only complaint – no hot water in the morning.
Tom forgot it was Monday and our favorite place to eat in Sakon Nakhon, Apple’s restaurant and bakery, was closed. So, we settled for moo ping and sticky rice for lunch and a pizza for dinner.
The 18th was the end of the roadtrip. I flew from Sakon Nakhon to Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok on Nok Air and then from Bangkok to Khon Kaen International Airport (yes, it is now international) on Thai AirAsia. Both flights were uneventful. I also managed to get some buttery popcorn and carmel crisp from Garrett’s Popcorn booth located on the 3rd floor between domestic and international departures.
So, even though we didn’t get to see the Thai-Lao boat races, Tom and I had another great Isaan roadtrip.
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