The adventure in Thailand just came to its half, and with it the need for a visa extension. After 3 months of good food, hot weather and smiles, I had 2 possibilities:
- Go to the immigration department, wait around 6 to 7 hours, pay 2,000 baht (around 65 dollars), and get the precious stamp;
- Cross the border to another country and on the way back be awarded with another 3 months on Thai soil.
If you have followed my journey before, you know very well the choice I made, the only question I had was which country to go to.
To the South, Malaysia. To the west, Myanmar. To the east, Cambodia. To the north, Laos. To the airport, any destination imaginable (and payable).
A simple look at the cheapest airfares coming out of Bangkok has revealed the name Udon Thani, a town located in the province of the same name in northeastern Thailand, and just 50km from the border with Laos.
Perfect. The ticket would be half the price of the visa extension, and I could breathe some (a little bit) purer air.
An addendum: I love to travel, but every time I like less and less planes. Arriving early at the airport, not being able to get in with water, going through checks and scans, more waiting and queuing. As the ticket was cheap, and I refuse to pay any extra fees, I could not choose the seat. Result: last row of the aircraft, with the right to much bump and turbulence.
Mental note: Next time I’ll take hitchhike
But hold on, it would happen anyway.
One night in Udon Thani and the next morning, under heavy rain, it was time to chase away laziness and stretch the thumb to the neighboring communist country. Communist perhaps for presenting a single party, but not necessarily the social characteristics of such a regime. Even so, the red flags with the sickle and the hammer divide space along with the flags of this poor country, of predominant Buddhist, and with strong French influences (due to the colonial period until the 50’s).
Back to Thailand.
After a 5km walk under heavy rain and many curious eyes, I found a spot outside the city where I could try my luck. Proving the fame of the region, about 20 minutes later I was being taken by two cousins and a small child, who followed to Nong Khai, city in the border with the Laos.
Easy, practical, with lots of smiles and recommendations of what to do in the surroundings.
Time to enter a new country!
At customs there was no problem at all, just a few approaches from taxi or tuk tuk drivers, who wanted to take me to Vientiane, the capital, for exorbitant prices. Knowing the scams as I do, I refused politely, and followed my steps down the road. A few meters ahead, a young Laotian woman, seated on her motorcycle and wearing an anti-pollution mask, approached me with a warm “Sa-bai-Dee (ສະ ບາຍ ດີ)”.
The language had changed, and that was the local “Hi.”
She told me that a bus to Vientiane would arrive soon, and that it would cost only 6,000 Kip.
Six thousand monies. How much was she talking about? That seemed like a lot, but at the end of the day it was only 72 cents of dollar.
She set out to wait with me and we changed some ideas in the meantime.
Brazil, referring to football. Laos, with its monks and waterfalls.
Thank you from here, Khorp Jai (ຂອບ ໃຈ) from there.
Goodbye from here, La-khon (ລາ ກ່ອນ) from there.
And the first impression I had of the country number 69 of the Campo de Gelo was the best it could be.
The largest city of Laos, and also its capital, is definitely quieter than the capitals of neighboring countries, with a more relaxing atmosphere, grand avenues, an Arc de Triomphe, temples, markets, a riverside by the Mekong and a park with different and astonishing shapes of Buddha.
It is worth mentioning that Beerlao, a beer produced locally, won my taste as the best in the region.
I was somewhat surprised by the horde of tourists through the streets and hostels, which in some cases offered free drinks to boost this type of tourism. This led me to give up on going to Vang Vieng, a more northern town known for water activities with tubes, dubious drug shakes, alcohol and foreigners who do not give a damn about the country or region they are in.
Other places that attracted my attention in this country are more distant, and as time was short, and the will was for hitchhiking, I decided to return to Thailand, and visit the Red Lotus Sea (or as I was taught: Talay Bua Dang ).
It is also worth mentioning the place I stayed in Udon Thani: Oldie and Sleepy Hostel.
I’m not getting paid for it, or anything, but the sympathy of the owner and his friends, combined with a lunch together, a movie session and a jazz band on the terrace, conquered me.
At 5am next morning I took a bus to this sea (or better saying, lake), about 30 km from the city, because I wanted to see the sunrise. I was left at the side of the road, and from there a nice local took me, on his motorcycle, to the desired point.
The cold air, the haze, and the tiredness of the sleepless night did not overwhelm me.
After entering the small boat that guided me through the limpid waters, the Sun began to distribute its heat and its colors.
The feeling of peace, the singing of the birds, the flowers that surrounded me, the smiling boatman, and the certainty that I was in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Between December and February, the lotus flowers display their pink colors on the horizon, and even though I was able to see them during their last month (due to the temperatures that tend to rise), I got amazed.
Describing this place in words is not easy, but they become necessary to detail the meeting that happened next.
Goldie, a Brazilian, Paulistana, traveler and smiling woman, with whom I had already exchanged travel tips through the Internet, but never seen personally, ended up leaving a boat at the same time I arrived on the border.
People say that opposites attract, but lately what I have been surrounded by people with good thoughts, wanting changes and improvements, willing something more sustainable, dignified, humane and useful.
With a similar story, we found ourselves with a similar Past of meaningless jobs, a resembling Present of traveling, and an equal Future of beautiful projects.
Believe in karma or not, but the good deeds that we propagate will yield wonderful things at some point in life. And with that thought, we got one more free ride back to the center of Udon Thani.
Mind refreshed, body relaxed, smiles exhausted, and the certainty that the future belongs to those who preach good things.
This entry was posted in Asia