[oops! sorry for the few improperly rotated pix; they appeared okay when viewed offline...?] Mid May, my rental condo's Brit owner and his Thai wife were coming for their 2-week Thailand vacation. I proposed that they stay at their place, reimbursing me for 2-weeks rent, and I'd go on a moto jaunt through Issan. I believed that would be a Win-Win proposition: it'd be much cheaper than their staying at a hotel and I'd have extra trip money. I thought I'd emulate the incredible Capt Slash and focus on taking Thailand's less traveled 4-digit roads. I normally prefer cruising through smaller villages than large cities, which I'd previously experienced in many past trips in Cambodia. So, armed with my usual Roadway map as well acquiring ThinkNet maps which the Captain's site suggested, I headed out from Pattaya. Contrary to my good intentions of taking many pictures, as in past trips I again often failed to take my camera out of my riding jacket, so this report will be more verbal than pictorial, containing a list of routes, some suggested hotels and a few pictures of some the many sights I encountered... A very long meandering first day... 36-331-3340-3245-331-304-33 (thru Sa Kaew),3462-3485-3198-348-3382-3308-348- 218 (thru Buriram),219-2378-214 to Surin, visit a friend (Mike) and see his restaurant. He suggested staying at the Thong Tarin Hotel. Though it's possibly a 4-star hotel, where the region and provincial dignitaries stay, the rooms on the top floors are scheduled for remodeling, yet are decent and can be had for a mere 400-Bt/night with HW, TV, WiFi, and AC! I ate my friends restaurant, the StarBeam, which I found provides both excellent western and Thai food, and has farang musicians playing on Friday nights. They also make excellent pizza and their own dough, so take note Capt Slash. Recommended. There was no red-shirt activity in Surin. The city's population is middle class and generally supports the yellows, though red-shirt supporters abound in the smaller outlying towns. http://www.thongtarinhotel.com/ http://www.starbeam-restaurant.com/ My next destination was Ubon where I'd hoped to find Marco recovering from his bike accident in Khon Kean. I'd failed to keep up with the GT-R thread on Marco's accident and didn't know he was now in a hospital in Korat. Mike had suggested I see the 'Wat laan khuaat', on the way to Ubon. The wat is allegedly made from a million bottles. Rumor has it that the site was originally an ancient outpost of the British Empire and had a beer bar, hence the large number of bottles available to build the Wat. I first headed north on 214 (thru Tha Tum), 2076, to the tiny village of Mak Mee off of 2076. I stopped there to briefly visit a friend's aging father then back on 2076-2079-226, towards Si Saket, in search of the fabled wat. I never found it, though enroute and at a dozen different stops, both locals and cops each provided far differing locations. The wat is still on my 'to do' list. 2373-2168-2382-2408-2404-23 took me into Ubon. A few years ago rode to Ubon to see their annual Candle Festival (highly recommended!) and stayed at the short-time hotel located behind the Wrong Way Cafe. The hotel was full and the Wrong Way Cafe is now run and owned by Richards ex-wife, as Richards' philandering ways led to his ouster. A short distance away, on the side opposite the Wrong Way is the fairly new Phadaeng Mansion. Rooms are large (2nd floor and up) and have HW, TV, AC, WiFi, a large bed and are 400-Bt/night, single. The hotel lobby and each room is decorated with pictures of various historic artworks and each room has a small balcony with a sink and clothes rack for those inclined to wash their riding clothes. The owner, 'A-Doon' is always on hand to provide assistance and directions. (Recommended!) http://thephadaeng.blogspot.com/ I visited a few wats and left Ubon, heading north along the Thai/Cambo border. While in Ubon, a number of red-shirt started fires causing blockages to some of the major roads. 2050-2034-Mukdahan-6015 [not labeled on any map; runs north through small villages along the Mekong]-212 Nakhon Phanom. On the way to Mukdahan, I asked someone where I could find a tube. This is where they sent me: I passed through Mukdahan, seeing the Friendship bridge and their Tower, which I thought was a water storage tower, not the cultural center that it is. I tried to visit the Mukdahan National Park. I followed the sign and even asked directions, but every road I explored and local who assisted with directions turned out to be another road which lead me back to the main Hwy 212. Is there a Mukdahan Nat'l Park, is the sign a local prank, or was I likely just lost again? Further north of Mukdahan there is a little known historical site. Like Phosavan, in Laos, Thailand also has their own "Plain of Jars" My goal was to visit the famous Prathat Phanom Wat, which is south of the Nakhon Phanom. On the way I detoured to see the "Bi-Colored River". I guess it was an off color day for the river, as it was only one shade of brown. An owner and friend of a local Pattaya moto shop, who is also an amulet collector/trader had given me an amulet from the Phanom wat, for my 'protection', when he'd learned I'd bought my first dirt-bike. No, I'm neither Buddist nor superstitious, but wear it on trips to justify his kindness. I wanted to give him some photos of the Wat. The wat is both enormous and gorgeous and had at least 1000 visitors, including hundreds of school children. Many of the structures were too large for me to get a vantage point to take a complete picture of them. Continuing north on 212, I wanted to visit the Phu Wua Wildlife Sanctuary, which is about 120-km north of Nakhon Phanom. Enroute, approaching the town of Ban Paeng, in the distance I could see about 20 pick-ups and larger trucks leaving the town and heading south on 212. The trucks were full of red-shirt demonstrators. As I got closer to the caravan, riding my red BMW and wearing a red riding jacket, the red-shirts started pumping fists in the air, cheering and waving. When I was close enough for them to see it I was a farang, their celebration quickly ceased! After the parks' entry point, the road leading into Phu Wua had large signs showing the various types of animals that could found in this wildlife sanctuary. I was surprised seeing a sign for rhinoceros, not knowing they are also found in Thailand. Turns out it's a smaller two-horned version of it's larger cousins. However, no animals could be seen in the park, without treking and hoping to see them in the wilderness. So far, I guess my viewing experiences in the various 'Unseen Thailand' venues has been about half seen and half still unseen! Backtracking on 212 and west on 2026-2145-2096-2230-2267(Fao Rai)-212-Nong Khai. On 2230, in a small village before Fao Rai, I was stopped as a parade of hundreds of Thai's were dancing and 6-sound trucks were blocking the road. Most were wearing pink and other non-red garments. I can only guess they were celebrating the King and the end of the siege in BKK. A half-dozen men came over to shake my hand; one guy brought two ladies over to meet me. I've no idea if the latter had an ulterior motive? Nong Khai must be suffering from the lack of tourist blues. Every internet cafe, prominently listed on the city's travel map was out of business. Of the few farang bars listed, 4 were closed; only Beer Belly Billy's bar was open for business. The Mekong was extremely low, likely due to mis-management of water flow control by the upstream the Chinese dams. The owner of Billy's told me that earlier this year the Chinese let so much water flow downstream that it crested the riverfront street and the bar had a few inches of water on their floor! That represents the river being about 60-80-feet higher than it is at present!! On the opposite side of the river, a Lao cement company was busy loading sand into trucks, for their inland factory. Leaving Nong Khai, I went to 'Thai Hell' Actually, it's the Wat Luang Pho Nahk. South on 2-2022 (in error I went to Penh), then 2022-2-2021-2348 (Ban Phoe). I took a number of pictures, but am presenting only a few, as those in the link below are of better quality. The small village on the outskirts of Ban Phoe contains two Wats. I stopped at the first one, which was void of people except one lone monk. He directed me to go another 1/2-km to a second wat...which was crowded with Thai visitors, foodstands and the desired statuary. I think the first wat badly needs to create their own tourist lure! Not all of the statuary was macabre: Below is a link to the Luang Pho Nahk, which erroneously indicates the Wat is located in Penh, while it is about 60-km west of Hwy-2, on the outskirts of Ban Phoe: http://www.thailandstories.com/article/ ... iland.html I was getting bored touring around [see addendum at the end] and decided to head to Khon Kean. 2021-2098 (then missed turn and was again lost)-2352-2097- 210-2146 (lost again)-2038-12. Lucky for me, the clouds had opened up and it pissed rain for the last 80-km of the ride, at night, to Khon Kean. The 'Rain-X' I'd applied to the visor at the start of the trip had worn off, making it a miserable and well soaked ride. I'd decided to stay at the Orchid Hotel, which John Gooding had used for visitors for bike week. The Orchid was full, but next door is the Season's Place, which had rooms with HW, TV, AC, and excellent room lighting (if you want to read) for 400-Bt/night. No WiFi or restaurant, but foodstands are located nearby. John Gooding had just returned from delivering a bike to C-Mai and stopped everything on his busy schedule and kindly lead me to some shops where I could replace my broken rearview mirror. We then went to his house [beautiful home, nice decor], chatted and then he lead me to a road where this lost soul could find his way back to the hotel. Thanks, John. http://www.khonkaenorchid.com/location.php Location map for Orchid Hotel & adjacent Season's Place To compensate for the wildlife I missed seeing at the sanctuaries, I could just look at the figures on this Land Rover, which belonged to one of the staff at the Season's Place Hotel. Weird, eh? Though I was getting bored traveling, I was somewhat stuck as I couldn't return back to my (rented) condo, until the owners vacation ended in another few days. So back to Tha Tum and Mak Mee, and onward on 214 towards to Surin. Enroute, I planned to visit the Ban Ta Klang Elephant Village, just west of 214. A highway sign directed me to turn right for the Village, I followed a dirt road a few km's and found only a ranch with unusual elephants... it was a cattle farm! 5-km's further down 214 was another sign to the Village; this one had elephants, and each house had an elephant parked where a car would normally be found. Okay, but cars don't poop on the garage floor! Near the entrance was the largest Asian elephant I've ever seen; a 35-y/o beauty, standing about 13-14-feet tall, with a pair of magnificent tusks. In Surin is was again a stay at the Thong Tarin Hotel and having meals at the StarBeam. Next day, it was on to Si Saket to visit the Pang Sida Park and waterfall. The area is home to over one hundred different butterflies from 6 different genetic sub families. Kids and adults alike were fascinated by the colorful insects. Before I could visit the waterfall, the rain gods again drenched me. I stopped a park restaurant for shelter and food. The rain finally ceased, but again began pouring soon after leaving the food stand. No need to put on rain gear if you're already soaked! Now heading home via Chanthaburi (214-24-348-33-3395-3348-317-3). Once I was heading south on Hwy-3395, the heavens decided to help the rice farmers and it rained all the way to Chanthaburi. Lacking the water shedding 'Rain-X', I was now constantly wiping off the road spray from vehicles ahead of me. As road spray also contains dirt, my visor soon became irreversibly scratched. Persevering in miserable conditions, I continued to brave the persistent rain all the way to Chanthaburi, where I got a room and dried off. Next morning it was simply a fast jaunt back home to Pattaya (3-36-3). Seeking a brief rest, at a bus stop, from the fury of the rain. Predictably the rain stopped while I was sheltered, only to begin again when I departed! Addendum: Things I'd change for future journeys... 1-Take a "Long haired Thai dictionary" with me. 2-Not let my landlord stay at the condo, though he's a good guy; one needs the freedom to return to the comforts of home whenever desired. 3-Go slower and use the camera more often [eh, maybe]. 4-Take some Rain-X with me. 5-Bring a magnifying glass to read the tiny print on the ThinkNet road maps. 6-And, finally, accepts that I need a GPS so I can find my intended destinations and won't wander in unintended locations [...get lost] so often!