Slight change to our plans!
02.09.2007 - 06.09.2007
View The Grand Tour on steve-les's travel map.
What a lovely day we had yesterday............ but more about that later.
The bus journey from PaKse to Ubon Ratchathani was fairly uneventful, although we did have the border crossing into Thailand to contend with. Because it was Sunday the Lao border control officials worked "overtime" and we had to give them a bung of extra money so that they would process our documents. Only one dollar each but a bribe nonetheless. We were fully expecting the Thail border crossing to be a bit of a hassle, with them asking to see our tickets for onward travel out of Thailand, but as it was it went really smoothly, although I did have everything prepared they didn't ask to see anything. We were a bit concerned when they didn't even ask us for any visa money (let alone bribe money for their overtime), but when we checked in the Lonely Planet guide, it mentioned that UK was one of the countries where they have a reciprocal agreement, so we saved ourselves seventy dollars. So all n all it was fairly painless.
Ubon Ratchathani is well off the tourist trail, and we only came across about five other westerners. It was a bit strange for the local inhabitants of Ubon to have westerners in their midst. It was nice for us to be off the beaten trail, again! Our hotel was very nice and we had a market right outside. During the day it was an ordinary market selling fruit, veg, meat, fish, clothes, etc and by night it was a food night market selling barbequed satays, fried noodles and savoury fish balls, to name but a few.
Whilst we were in Ubon Ratchathani, we decided that we had had enough of grotty internet cafes, so we bit the bullet and have splashed out on a laptop computer with WIFI internet so we can do all our emails and and blogs from the comfort of our hotel room and plush cafes as we are now, sipping ice tea.
We decided in Ubon to change our itinerary slightly and stop off on the way to Bangkok at the Khao Yai National Park, which is a monsoon rain forest right in the heart of Thailand. We decided to make the eight hour journey by train, and whilst we were sat waiting at the train station, at dead on 8am the loudspeakers flashed up with the thai national anthem, and everybody in the station stood stiffly to attention. We were a bit unsure as to what to do, so we quickly followed suite. Apparently this happens in all public place twice a day in Thailand. Very patriotic! The train journey was fairly uneventful but we seemed to be the centre of attraction as the only westerners on the train. On our arrival in Pak Chong all the passengers on the train were hanging out of the windows watching us putting our backpacks on.
We managed to find a brilliant place in Pak Chong. It's a bit of a family run guesthouse that does guided trekking tours of the National Park. Yesterday we had an amazing day trekking through the leech infested rain forest. We saw Hornbills (3 varieties), Gibbons, Maccak monkeys, Samba Deer, Munkjak Deer, Jackals, snakes, lizards, all types of butterflys and spiders, but sadly no Elephants. There are supposed to be 200 wild Elephants in the Park but I think they were all hiding! Because of the leeches in the rain forest, we all had to wear protective leech socks, however when we stopped for lunch Steve discovered blood on his leech sock. He removed his sock and found a big fat leech that had managed to get inside and suck about a teaspoonful of blood. The Khao Yai National Park is the home of the famous waterfull featured in the film "The Beach", the one where Leonardo Di Caprio (well his stunt double) leaps off. It was an absolutely stunning waterful, however it being the rainy season the water was in full force and so we could not swim in the pool (or jump off the falls).
At our guesthouse we met Peter and Regina, a newly wed couple on a four month honeymoon and were amazed to find out that they live at Tamerton Foliot, Plymouth. Small world eh. We had a really enjoyable evening eating more Thai curry and drinkng the local beer. All in all a wonderful day. This morning we are catching up on emails and booking our onward accommodation before setting off this afternoon on a night trip in the jungle. Hopefully we might see some Elephant.
Off to Bangkok on Friday for our last week in Thailand before flying to Singapore.
Thank you for all your messages, keep them coming because we really appreciate them.
Love to everybody.