35. Nong Khai - Nakon Panom
I had high hopes for this stretch of road, on the map it looked very promising, almost 400 kilometers along the mighty Mekhong river. However, as it is often with roads following a big river (i.e. Mississippi), mostly the view to the river was obscured by lush forests, the little villages one passes through, or plainly by the fact that the road was further away from the river banks than displayed on the map. (Lesson learned: Many maps of this area of the world are inaccurate, my German Mair map is often wrong, not as often as the Google maps online, though. Google's most annoying problem is that they almost never get the spelling of towns and villages right, which causes issues when typing them into the GPS. The best map so far was provided by the Aussie fellow who makes the gt-rider maps, however they don't cover this area.) http://www.gt-rider.com/maps-of-thailand-laos-maps
Other than the lack of scenic views to the river the ride was pleasant, traffic was moderate, not bad at all. The further east I traveled the more rugged, saw-toothed, and scenic the far away mountain range in Laos, just across, looms over the shoulder of the river. Impressive.
I left my little hideaway place with the three rental rooms, directly on the Mekhong, said goodbye to the sweet little doggies and Piriya, the owner of the place "The Rim", who put extra care in preparing one last cappuccino for me, with his pride possession, the brand-new Italian machine. One of the best cappuccinos I had in this neck of the woods, no doubt.
|Last evening's scene with river cruise ship|
|Good Bye! The view from my room.|
|Piriya and his Italian Espresso machine.|
|These two! They play all day long.|
|The little coffee shop and mini-hotel, three small rooms. Lovely.|
|Nong Khai street scenes|
|After playing is sleeping. The girl doggie, deep asleep.|
|This morning: |
Piriya wanted to have his picture taken next to the packed motorcycle.
I arrived around lunch time in Nakhon Panom, another small town on the river, in character similar to last days stop in Nong Khai.
A section of the river road and pedestrian promenade here in town are blocked off my police in preparation for tomorrow's big event: The King's birthday. The beloved ruler turns 84 years old, I believe. Almost all Thai people only know this one monarch, on him rest all the hopes to end this charade, a typical Thai operetta, however never the less violent (six death, so far). Literally all the players in this comedy are crooks, all are corrupt, and no one really knows how it will end, or what solution to this mess can be found. In secret, everybody hopes the King will intervene; however, a few weeks ago I saw him on TV, he is barely able to follow what happens around him, unable to speak, it seems. In secret here means, that in Thailand one cannot speak about the King, at least not as a foreigner.
It is sad. Maybe if push comes to shove, the military will stage a coup like the last time when they ousted PM Taksin. The political system in this country seems to be in much worth shape than what we are used to in the our own democracies in the West, but it is here equally divided, polarized.
I will stay two days here in this sleepy town.