33. Phitsanulok - Nong Khai
The road, Highway 12, four-lane, leaves Phisanulok towards the East and turns after uninteresting 75 km, and after a left turn into the beautiful rural Highway 2013, a great road with little traffic. There are many curves, but more gentle ones than in the high mountains between Mai Hong Son and Chiang Mai. The lush forests make way first to vast pineapple plantations, and later to flower farms. The pleasant smell is a welcome departure from the common Nam Pla fish sauce smell often to be found in Thailand, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere. Nam Pla comes also in a hardcore variety: The dead fish is packed tightly in an earthen jar, then buried for a few weeks. Somebody using a little of this sauce in a 50 meter radius will make himself known to others. It is one of the most disgusting stinks you can imagine.
Another detail worth mentioning are the many street side stands selling snakes in a clear plastic bag. They are kept in water, and displayed hanging from an umbrella on the road, mostly out in the country. I did not take any images since stopping on these roads is somewhat dangerous, however practiced by the locals in their pick-ups all the time.
When the road leaves the mountain ranges and descends down to the Mehkong river, I am back on a "Great River Road". There are a few in the world, the great roads following the Rhein and Mosel rivers in Germany, and the one in our own backyard, the Great River Road along the Mississippi. Here along the Mehkong, which is a wider river than the Mississippi, the road passes through many small villages which live of the river, the road is often interrupted by construction, road widening takes place along the entire last 300 km.
I arrive in Nong Khai in the afternoon. Vientiane, the capital of Laos lies directly across the river, the large casinos for which the Laos border region is famous for, can be seen from afar.