Goodbye Laos, Hello Thailand!
Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
85Trip End Dec 24, 2011
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Its an early start from Pakse so we can catch our 8am bus. As we enter Thailand, the difference is huge. Car showrooms are in the place of scooter showrooms and the roads are wider and cleaner. We also notice the flooding almost instantly, swolen lakes and rivers all around with peaks of wooden huts showing on the surface. It is about an hour and a half from the border to the bus station at Ubon, and when we arrive we meet Judith who has a Tuk Tuk in tow, to take us to a hotel.
And a hotel it is! $27 for two nights is a huge up in the price we are used to paying, but it is definitely worth it. We dump our stuff and head out for a coffee. Ubon is miles more cosmapolitan that the cities we have been in Laos. But the laid back feel still remains
Back at the hotel, we use Judith's new computor and skype Claire's mum and stepdad, Dina and Mark. Dina says, "hasn't it been great that we could skype whilst you were in Vietnam?" Claire: "Mum, we havent been in Vietnam for over a month." Dina: " Hang on, where were you then?" Claire: "Laos." Dina: "I thought that was in Vietnam?"
Later we take a stroll around to find somewhere for dinner. We love Ubon, it seems very authentic and not very touristy, and everyone we speak to are so welcoming and interested in speaking to us. We also notice that the standard of English is far better here. We find a sweet family run restaurant and order some Thai curry
Later at the hotel we meet a lovely Belgian man called Ivo, who is a lay Buddhist and has just come from spending a few months in a nearby Monastry. The Monastry itself is aparently quite well known and is exclusively for western monks and lay Buddhists and is submerged in the forest near Ubon. We enjoy some time chatting with Ivo then go up to our room and Jo and Judith talk about politics which bores Claire who just wants to dance to Bob Dylan.
Judith's 30th birthday begins with us going to a nearby bakery, the likes of which we haven't seen since Vientiane. Everything is packaged up all swanky and everything seems to be made almost entriely from butter... we resign ourselves to becoming fatties before taking our breakfast to a nearby coffee shop for a real coffee (we don't miss Laos's instant coffee for breakfast at all).
We then shop in the area around our hotel and visit the tourist information offcie where although we are basically told there is next to nothing really to do here, we are told it in perfect English and with big smiles and pray like hand gestures as welcome..
Despite its quietness and untouristy feel, we like the city very much and appreciate that this is simply a place where Thai people live and work and that there will be no show for the foreigners... perfect.
We decide this will be the ideal place to chill out and eat lots of nic Thai food for a few days. Our hotel is made even better by the company it provides us. There is Ivo who we have already met in Ubon but also Olga, from Holland, who we very breifly met on the ferry back from Don Khong in Laos and who is quite a character; she talks about looking for food in Thailand ('I just wanted something to chew!') and hitch hiking into Pakse in order to get to Skype for a job interview.
Its with Olga and another Swiss lady called Gaby that we go to get a celebratory dinner for Judith at the night market near our hotel. Lots of local people come here to eat every night and there is an abundance of things on offer; the familiar bbq animals on sticks, noddle soups, spring rolls, etc. We get a great dinner for only 30 bhat and vow to come back every night to eat before heading off in search of a bar for a birthday drink.
Alas, Thaii people are not heavy drinkers so we find only a kareoke bar that looks too swish for us and so we opt for a drink back at the hotel instead
In the end, we stay up very late chatting with Ivo about lots of different things and before we head to bed he gives us one of his pictures (he was once an art teacher in Belgium), which Claire tried to buy earlier. In the last week of our trvels in SE Asia we finally have some artwork to take home.
Today is a very slow day as it follows one of (about 3 total) our latest nights in Asia. As a result we get up very late and have a breakfast from the bakery in our room.
We find that Ivo is still around (he had too much beer and overslept - missing his bus) and we go back to the restauraunt we found on the first day, for lunch with Judith and Ivo.
After some lazing we head back to the night market and feast on sweet pancakes with egg inside, sushi, grilled sweet potato, spring rolls and fried veggie patties. Yum. We eat on a bench in the park watching the kids on BMX's do tricks on the railings and guys playing basket ball in the court.
Our hangover day is finished with a game of dice outside the hotel and a needed early night.
A fresher start to the day we get our now usual bakery and coffee breakfast and then head to a nearby shopping mall (by a tuk tuk that rattles so much when trying to keep up with traffic on the highway that it feels like it might fall apart)
For lunch we eat sushi which makes us feel even more that we are no longer in Laos, and then head back to the hotel via local hop on hop off bus for only 10 bhat.
In the afternoon we skype James, Liz and.... George for the first time!!!!! Jmes and Liz say a bunch of stuff but we mostly just stare, point and say 'baby'. Mental.
In the evening the area around our hotel starts to get pretty busy and we wander whats going on until the security guard points down to the river and manages to mime that is a celebration of the full moon, so down we head to check it out. Lots of locals and only a very few tourists have come to light candles on floats and let off Thai lanterns. Once again this buddhist celebration is pretty spectacular - Those buddhists now how to do these things just lovely
There's lots of interesting food to try including our last taste of fried cricket in Asia and an infused egg, which even now Jo can't really explain. Everyone is very freindly and smiles at us as we let off our own lantern, proving only to increase our appreciation of this brilliant country.
More food at the night market, this time a sandwich of egg and Laos pate (consisting of we don't know what), which is once again delicious.
Back at our hotel fireworks burst in the distance as we play cards over a Leo beer.
We send our last package home from Asia and this is the cheapest and most effecient service yet - Thailand just gets better and better. We take the local bus (song-tow roughly in English) again to the bus station and buy our tickets for Bangkok for the following day - due to the flooding it will take 3 hours more, totaling 10 hours... eeash.
The afternoon is basically preparing for our mamouth journey the next day stopping at the mall again and then packing our bags up before one last trip to the night market for dinner. We didn't expect to but we have loved Ubon and it has proven the ideal place to chill out in before the madness of Bangkok and the lengthy journey on to the next part of our trip.