Thursday, January 04, 2007

Daily Report: Day #4 of Vacation

We slept in a bit today, finally getting out and about at 10:30 or so. First step was to go rent the motorcycle for a bit longer. The guy there let us take the motorcycle for the extra few hours free of charge, which was really nice.

Then, it was back to Bor Pen Nyang for one final meal... a late breakfast. Typical Southeast Asian breakfast... don't get your hopes up... but their coffee shake was really really nice.

We were back out front of the Thai embassy at about 12:30, and were already 100th in line. However, the picking up of passports was a much zippier affair... although decidedly more stressful, since if you were going to be refused a visa (i.e. the ability to go back to Thailand), now would be the time you find out about it.

Fortunately that did not happen. I received my passport with visa and was on my way.

We met Tom and Newt again at the embassy. We were going to ride with them to the border, but they were taking a tuk-tuk directly from the embassy to the border, while we still had yet to drop off the motorcycle and were going to rent a car from the hotel.

So we said our goodbyes to Tom and Newt again, and took the motorcycle back to the rental shop, got Pui's passport returned, went to the hotel, and had the hotel call us a taxi. The taxi turned out to be a 40-year-old Volvo held together with rope, but the 20-mile trip to the border only cost us $12. (The highway between the border and Vientienne is all newly paved, and is thus a much nicer drive than it used to be.)

We got checked out of Laos no problem, paid the 15 baht each for the bus to carry us the mile across no-man's land and across the Friendship Bridge to the Thai side of the border, and then got ourselves checked into Thailand. (I stood in line at the Thai border behind yet another Hmong fellow from America.)

It was our intention to go from Nong Khai, which is the city on the Thai side of the Thai-Laos border to Petchabun, where Pui's family lives, to stay there for a few days. The only way to get there is by bus, which would require us to travel south 1 hour from Nong Khai to Udon Thani, where the region's main bus depot is located. We were happy to discover that buses leave the border crossing regularly for the Udon Thani bus station. We were not so happy to discover that the only place you could buy tickets for those busses was on the Lao side of the border. (Yeah... That makes sense.)

Therefore, our adventure begun.

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon. We hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the bus station in Nong Khai where we bought tickets to Udon Thani. Unfortunately, we wound up on the local stop bus, which took 2 hours to cover the distance. We got to Udon Thani at 6:00 p.m. after all the busses going south had left for the day. We met up with Tom and Newt again at the Udon Thani bus station and had dinner with them.

On talking to them, they talked about how their bus to Chiang Mai was going to be stopping in Phitsanoluk, a city about 3 hours from Petchabun. I figured that any movement away from Udon and torwards Petchabun was a good thing, so I decided to put ourselves on that bus as well. Unfortunatley, it was sold out, but there was a second bus going to Chiang Mai at 7:00 which still had some seats left. (At first we were told that we would have to stand, but then miraculously some seats became available.)

What would have been nice is to have gotten off the bus in Lom Sak, which is the town just north of Petchabun, but the bus didn't go there.

We made ready to get on the bus, but much to my chagrin, I disocvered that the seats that we had been told had become miraculously available were actually plastic stools that we would be sitting on in the aisle. Unfortunately, the aisle is only about 15 inches wide, and my butt is not. I had to sit in the front... siting on a 3-foot high precipice at the top of some steps leading upwards from the driver's cockpit, no seatbelt, me sitting on a stool, with nothing but about 5 feet of open air between me and the windshield.

My instinct was to call it a night and find a hotel, but when I was told that no refund for our tickets would be forthcoming, I decided to just stay put. Upon pulling out of the bus stop, I noticed 2 empty seats next to me, and upon asking the bus steward when they would be filled, he replied "Loei."

Now, Loei is a city that is about an hour north of Lom Sak. So, Pui and I took the 2 empty seats (with Pot on our lap), getting me out of the death chair, and we rode to Loei, arriving there at about 11:00 at night.

From Loei, we hired a taxi (which was a guy with a pickup truck) to drive us the final 150 km to Lom Sak where Pui's parents would pick us up. Unfortunately, the driver decided to take the long way through the mountains, so instead of 1 hour it was 2 hours. (I do admit that it was a nice drive though, as the mountains and twisty road were splendidly lit by the light of an exceptionally full moon.)

We arrived in Lom Sak at 1:00 a.m. where Pui's parents had come to meet us with — oh joy — another pickup truck. Pui, myself, Pui's father, and her cousin (in his army fatigues) sat in the back of the truck in the 55° nighttime 1-hour long ride back to Pui's family's house, finally arriving and finishing our trip at 2:00 in the morning.

1 comment:

selva said...

i like to stay once again in this Alpine Peaks restaurant , i have never feel such a restaurant in my life, i found the meaning of relax there. i like to take family too in my next journey, i think they too will like me