Saturday, 23 April 2011

EXTREMES IN ISSAN- North-east Thailand

Our six weeks in the Issan area of north-east Thailand has flown! We've travelled very slowly north, and north-west from the Cambodian border, and apart from the freak freezing and wet two weeks we had in March (it is summer time at this time of year, and usually Issan is the hottest place in Thailand ), we've had an enjoyable time in this area that many tourists forget. Some of the highlights have been as follows:

  • Phanom Rung- a wild motorbike ride into the far flung border region got us to these surprising Ankhor era temples- some of the best temples we've seen in Thailand.  Beautifully restored and cared for-an interesting contrast to the temples from the same era around Battambang in Cambodia which were haphazardly put back together and quite neglected. 

Phanom Rung

Phanom Rung


  • Nong Khai- catching up with our dear friend, Valerie, and enjoying cycling along the river front. A repeat trip to the bizarre sculpture park, Sala Kaew Ku, was another highlight. We love this place- the mad lifetime of work by an eccentric monk, who is now dead, and his preserved body can be visited in the adjoining temple- a bit creepy!

    Nong Khai sculpture park
    Nong Khai Sculpture park

    Nong Khai sculpture park

    Mad fish feeding, sculpture park

    •  Sangkom- tiny village on the Mekong river, we chilled out here in a cute little hut for a few days, enjoying the serenity!

      Chilling by the Mekong

      Freezing bus ride from Sangkom

      •  Discovering the underrated lovely, friendly little town of Loei- for a long time on our list, but for some reason we never got around to a visit before. Our day out on a motorbike visiting villages and forests in the surrounding area was beautiful, and the bat cave (see video), and the subsequent sunset ride back to town the absolute high point.
               http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3zzYDKrmUw


      Ready to go chooks, Loei market

      Forest park, Loei

      Bat cave, Loei
       
      • Nan- another place we have been meaning to look around for years, and it's lived up to what we imagined it would be! Like Loei, it's a delightful, untouristy place (there are so many in Thailand, if you know where to look!), with good accommodation, welcoming people, great night market for food, and many options for day trips. It's also a temple town, with dozens of local variations on traditional style temples.

        Nan temple

        Beautiful Buddhas, Nan

        Nan temple

        Temple murals, Nan

        Buddhist Hell!!

        • Songkran- our first Songkran in Thailand, after all these years! Songkran is the Thai New Year, and falling in the middle of the hot season, and basically just a great excuse for everyone to throw water at each other! It was a bit of a foreign concept, for us water-saving Aussies, but we eventually got into it! We were lucky to be in Nan for the celebration, as apparently in big cities there is a lot of drunkenness, and flour and dye mixed in with the water, but we simply had buckets of water thrown at us every 100 metres every time we went out for 4 days! We did retaliate with some hilarious surprise attacks-  locals in nan are not used to farangs (foreigners), and didn't expect us to fight back! A highlight was watching the local lady boy section of the road, complete with club music and sexy dancing on stools for the passing traffic!! No photos, though- wasn't going to risk getting the camera soaked without a waterproof case! Check out this link: 
                  http://www.bangkokpost.com/multimedia/photo/231834/water-fun-begins 

        • Bangkok's Siriraj Forensic Museum- this one should really be in the Barmy Bangers section, and probably truly deserves it's own entry! Our third visit to this gruesomely fascinating place. For the bargain price of $1.30, we saw a wide range of bizarre displays, originally meant for medical and police students, but now abit of a macabre tourist attraction. Rooms varied from deformed fetuses in glass jars (including several Siamese twins); embalmed bodies of rapists and murderers; a display about the tsunami, with devastating before and after aerial photos; an entire wall filled with gory crime scene photos (couldn't look at these- a bit much, especially the man who had been separated from his head in a train crash); preserved organs and body parts from crimes (stabbings/shootings etc) and diseases; everything you could ever want to know about intestinal worms (and plenty of things I could have done without knowing!), including graphic close up photos of hundreds of tape worms exiting people's rear ends; details of all the mosquito born diseases going (again, rather disturbing photo- this time of a poor bloke with elephantiasis in his balls- the size of a 10 kg sack of potatoes); and finally, the creepy crawly display. So, plenty of variation, and a good way to spend a rainy afternoon!! No photos allowed, and to be honest, a lot of you would NOT want to see this stuff anyway!!

        We're off to Burma for a month in a few days for our next adventure- we know for sure there is a lot of internet censorship there, so we won't write for a while. Stay tuned!!!!