Isaan (Mukdahan)

Trip Start Jan 12, 2010
Trip End Dec 02, 2010

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Where I stayed
Huanum Hotel (150B)

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

1st September i arrived in Mukdahan. Just like Nong Khai, this riverine town lived up to expectations. The town itself is very similar to Nong Khai in that it boarders Laos (the town of Sawannakhet to be precise) and is set beside the Mekong river. I had a fantastic week here. The hotel was both really nice and cheap and even had free Wi-Fi and a TV (which isn't common for rooms under 200B) so most evenings were spent watching Thai movie channels or playing Worms or Mario Kart online using the wi-fi on my Nintendo DS. I was able to get motorbike hire here too so the day trips were greatly welcomed after the motorbike fammine i've had over the last week of traveling. I had also planned to do my last VISA run here too but due to the time i've saved from only staying a few days or just "passing through" the last 4 locations (Maha Sarakham, Roi Et, Kalasin and Sakon Nakhon) i can now wait until i'm in Surin and do the VISA run to Cambodia which is a third cheaper than Laos.

So, first day (as always) i just settled in. Had a look around the Indochinese markets, my hotel is less than 1minute walk from the promenade walkway along the Mekong river so had a nice walk along there and just got my bearings and had a wonder around. Then i hired a bike over the next 4 days and spent the whole day, each day going to different places of interest (i think i racked up about 25hrs ride time over these 4days)

First day i went to Ho Kaew Mukdahan (Mukdahan tower) which is only 2km (just over 1 mile) from the town centre and is a 65metre high tower block that was built in 1996 and has exhibitions and museums on Mukdahan's history on it's 2 lower floors, while the top floor is an observation room allowing panoramic views over the whole area (the Thai town of Mukdahan, the Laos town of Sawannakhet, the Mekong river as well as the surrounding landscape and even the 2nd Thai - Laos Friendship Bridge, which i later passed and got a good close up shot (there are 3 bridges, the 1st was in Nong Khai, the 2nd here in Mukdahan and the 3rd in Nakhon Phanom which is north of here)) After visiting the tower i went to a place called Phu Manorom. This is a huge hill that is home to a Wat/Temple, a 1 metre deep replica Buddha foot print, landscape gardens and the same views (but even higher up) as those seen at the tower. After here, i headed north to see the rapids of Kaeng Kao Bo which is a rip tide type phenomonen in the Mekong river (although it's best experienced during the February - May period) As it was only another 30km (18miles) and i'd already come so far i decided to continue traveling north and left the province of Mukdahan and entered Nakhon Phanom. On the southern tip of this province is Phrathat Phanom which is a temple with 53metre high Lao style stupa that is believed to date back more than 12 centuries. On the way back to Mukdahan i then took a slight detour to visit a place of which i have no idea what the name is. Only that it was described on my map as "Ancient wooden elephant carvings" Wether by ancient it means a few decades or a few centuries is anyones guess but it was home to 2 wat/temple type buildings and the afore mentioned elephant, all of which were made from wood (teak?)

The second day trip i went to Mukduhan National park (Phu Pha Thoep) which is split into 8 areas of interest over huge and open barren terrain that consisted of forests, hills, caves, rocky plateaux and unusual rock formations. The 8 attractions were 1 Phu Pha Thoep (a large plain of unusual shaped rock formations) 2 Wang Duan Ha waterfall (a very small but lovely little waterfall set in a picturesque area) 3 Lan Mudchillin (i have no idea of the details due to everything been in thai, i only know it had something to do with rare or endangered flora) 4 Pha oot (i think "pha" means hill or high place as all the attractions with "pha" in them were view points) 5 Pha Ngoy (another view point) 6 Phu Thumpra waterfall (a medium sized but really nice waterfall) 7 Pha Manow (another view point but set within the forest beside a cliff walk) and finally 8 Tham lord and Pha Sai (which, as you should know by now, tham = cave, so Tham lord was a small cave you had to go through by entering at it's base and exiting at it's top to Pha Sai which was another view point) Some of the locations were easy to find but others were near impossible and it was a real hard slog walking through this terrain in the blistering heat, back tracking and even getting lost... but you only have to look at the pictures to know it's all worth while.

The third day trip was more relaxed. I went to Wat Matchimawat AKA Wat Klang which is nothing special in itself, but is home to the Mahorathuek Drum which is a single sided bronze drum found in 1938 on the banks of the Mekong river at Ban Na Tham, Laos. The drum has a sun design in it's centre with frogs around the outrer rim. The drum is believed to be more than 3000 years old and anything that's survived time for that long is worthy of a look and some attention in my book. After that i went on a wild goose chase for some waterfall that i never found, but still had a nice ride and saw some amazing scenery non the less.

The 4th and final day trip was a big one. I began by heading south to the district of Nikom Kham Soi where i visited Key Lake which is a huge lake and reservoir and also Wat buddho Dharma Dharo (phu dan tae) which was built in 1941 and is home to a huge golden buddha with a halo. Afterwards i headed west to the district of Nong Sung where i saw Tad Ton Waterfall. I then headed north to the district of Kham Cha-I where i visited 2 stupa like structures that i have no names to but were unique looking and worth a look in my opinion. After these i headed east and came full circle back to Mukdahan.

Today i gave the bike back and am just relaxing, catching up with laundry and this blog while planning my onward travel to Ubon Ratchathani, which is where i go tomorrow. I'll probably have a last walk along the promenade later and watch the sunset a final time over the Mekong river. I had a great time here and would put Mukdahan (along with Nong Khai and Loei) as one of my top locations i've visited in Isaan.

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