A Mae Hong Son To Savannakhet Road Trip

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by Kiwi Cruiser, Oct 23, 2018.

  1. Kiwi Cruiser

    Kiwi Cruiser Ben Kemp
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    With a tight deadline, a distant destination and the prospects of inclement weather, I talked myself into driving from MHS to Mukdahan. 1,000 kms there and back on the bike would be great on northern roads... The reality is that once you get south as far as R12, there's not much to look forward to on the bike. There's a lot of speed cameras too...

    At least in the Hilux there's aircon and music as you are cruising along a the legal limit. if it rains, you stay dry... The other advantage is that navigation is unknown cities is greatly simplified with Google Maps on the phone, with audible instructions to augment the map...

    After midmorning start on a Saturday, I went over 108 towards San Patong, and turned right onto the 116 which skirts around Lamphun. I then followed Highway 11 down to Uttaradit. I was there earlier in the year, and its a town with some potential. I've only ever arrived tired and sweaty in the late afternoon on the bike, not a good platform to explore from.

    I decided to try a night at the Tonsom Residence that Moto-Rex had found on his last trip through town. I can only agree with his assessment that it extremely good value for money! Absolutely first class.

    1-Tonsom.

    Looking at "What's Nearby" on Google Maps, the little TT Garden Mall just around the corner looked promising. The Living Room Bar & Bistro upstairs restaurant beckoned... the place is upmarket, air-conditioned...

    2a-living-room-restaurant.
    and had a good menu...

    2b-living-room-restaurant-menu.

    As a genuine kiwi, I could not resist a plate of mussels...

    2c-living-room-restaurant-mussels.

    The t-bone steak with pepper sauce and garlic bread followed. By the time I put those away, along with the contents of a big green bottle, my day was done!

    2d-living-room-restaurant-steak.
    Early start, on the road to Udon Thani by 6:30 am. No breakfast, no lunch - a couple of cups of Amazon coffee & cookies saw me through until arrival.

    The new Xiaomi Mi8 phone, plus Google Maps and it's calm and comforting directions, allowed me to progress unerringly to the @Home at Udon Hotel... I've only ever stayed in Udon Thani once before about 9 years ago. That was after selling my old Honda Shadow 1100 to a bloke in Nong Bua Lamphu and then not being able to get a flight out of Udon Thani until the following morning... Zero local knowledge, in other words!

    3a-Home-At-Udon.

    The @Home Hotel is in the heart of the falang touristy area, with lots of little bars and massage establishments nearby. I did need a haircut and spotted the "London Barber" just around the corner! Brilliant - highly recommended! With moustache and eyebrows trimmed and hair cut to a suitable length - a snack seemed in order!

    3b-london-barber-udon-thani.
    The Good Corner Restaurant was indeed aptly named- a great vantage point from which to observe the ebb and flow of humanity and exceptionally good food! I was concerned that the Ham & Cheese Sandwich might beat me, but I stuck to the task!

    3c-good-corner-sandwich.
    The coffee was damned good too, so I had a second! After a bit of exploring the surroundings, a shower followed by a wee lie down seemed in order. Rested up, a (expensive) beer at the Fun Bar quenched the Beer O'Clock thirst and dinner followed by an early night seemed like a good next move.

    3d-good-corner-ribs.
    Back to the Good Corner and a plate of ribs, garlic bread and chips turned out to be a great choice. To my delight, those ribs were not only succulent, melt-in-your-mouth delicious - they were also smoked in the cooking process - perfect, the best ribs I've ever had in Thailand.

    Next morning, I rolled out of the city at 6:30 am again, heading for the Mukdahan border crossing into Savannakhet, Laos. The roads down that way lack interest in terms of the scenery, twists, turns and mountains I'm accustomed to...

    I've always found border crossings to be somewhat stressful, especially those I've never been to before. Aside from not knowing the local process, which window location to head for etc, the Mukdahan crossing also offers the headache of bus tickets. Then there's the paucity of English language signage, plus half the facilities are in reconstruction mode on both the In and the Out sides...

    Ticket in hand, the bus finally arrived an hour late. The seething mass of humanity did not form an orderly queue. I did not make it onto that bus due to my reluctance to emulate the rudeness, barging and queue jumping... Fortunately, another bus arrived within 10 minutes, and I was at the front of the next queue and made it on...

    I did observe with keen interest that the Savan Resorts shuttle bus was transporting people over the bridge every few minutes, that looked a lot less stressful. I don't know if non-resort guests can buy their way onto the shuttles or not.

    Eventually over the bridge, Visa on Arrival secured, through Immigration and out into Laos... A 200 baht solo taxi ride seemed like a good deal after the demonic 50 baht bus ride... Thus, I arrived at Aura Residence...

    4a-aura-residence-frontage. 4b-aura-residence-cafe.
    The place does a reasonable breakfast...

    4c-aura-residence-breakfast. 4d-aura-residence-breakfast.

    The Aura is in the middle of town, almost equi-distant from the Thai Consulate at one end of town, and the good restaurants at the other end. The Aura has a decent little cafe, decent rooms, friendly staff, good WiFi and good service! For an overnight stay for a visa application, not a bad option. For a multi-day stay, there are almost certainly better options...

    Tuk tuks are not hard to find, but some of the drivers are regrettably persistent and extortionate. There's a notable reluctance to quote a price before the journey starts... and shaking an irritating tuk tuk driver off is akin to ridding oneself of a leech... Of course, that happens in the Land of Smiles as well - the downside of travel if you are separated from your personal transportation.

    Coffee at the Dao Cafe, plus some duty-free Jack Daniels...

    4e-dao-coffee. 4f-dao-coffee.
    Showered, changed and ready for a sundown beer, I set off on foot for the Savan Laos Derm Restaurant on the banks of the Mekong.... A passing tuk tuk allowed me to completed the 1.7 kms without working up a sweat... The restaurant is split level - there's a floating barge section on the Mekong, plus a higher section on terra firma - my choice due to the elevated view...

    5a-mekong-riverside-beers-sundown. 5b-savan-laos-derm. 5b-sweet-sour-fish-savan-laos-derm.
    Being in Laos means there's no shortage of "Beer Laos si dum" and its my absolute favourite beer. So of course, I made the most of a thirst and an abundance... The deep-fried sweet and sour fish was delicious...

    5c-savan-laos-derm.
    So much so that I opted to eat there again on the 2nd night... but on the river level dining area.

    6a-savan-laos-derm.
    The photo above, you will clearly see the elevation difference between the current river level and the top level floor area. The waitress said that in a flood earlier in the year, the water was a foot deep in the upstairs dining section!

    6b-savan-laos-derm. 6c-savan-laos-derm. 6d-savan-laos-derm.

    On my first trip to Thailand & Laos in 2004, I had my first taste of "beers and dinner by the Mekong" near Vientiane. An experience that stamped an indelible impression on me, I've been addicted to the riverside beers at sundown ever since. There are quite a few places around Thailand that offer a similar experience on both the Mekong and other smaller river locations. Sensory pleasure at its very best, in my book!

    6e-savan-laos-derm. 6f-savan-laos-derm. 6g-savan-laos-derm.
    The following day I collected my visa from the consulate and got myself delivered back to the bridge via tuk tuk. The same bus - but on the Laos side there was a very orderly embarkation process. An hour and 15 minutes after leaving the consulate, I was back at the Hilux in the undercover / secured parking building on the Thai side. From there to the Riverfront Hotel in Mukdahan.

    7a-riverfront-hotel-mukdahan. 7b-riverfront-hotel-mukdahan-room.
    The Riverfront Hotel is aptly named... decent accommodation at 800 thb, including a bountiful buffet breakfast, and undercover secure parking. The hotel fronts onto the Indo-China Market street, so a bit of browse around the shops allowed me to find some toys for my two boys...

    7c-indo-china-market-mukdahan.

    Looking across the Mekong from Mukdahan

    7d-mekon-mukdahan.
    Classier waterfront dining is available but I did not find it on foot in the time available... I came close, but no Beer Laos si dum! The only choice was Beer Chang, so that immediately became my short-term favourite beer...

    7e-riverfront-restaurant-mukdahan.

    The casual reader might rightly assume that I like beer...

    7-riverfront-hotel-mukdahan.
    The 7am buffet breakfast duly dealt with, I was on the road by 7:30 am after setting the Google Maps destination to home. Mukdahan to Tak... I stopped for a lunch break at Pino Latte Cafe, above Route 12 at the top of the hills above Lom Sak

    8a-pino-latte-ascent. 8b-pino-latte.

    Pork ribs... yummy!

    8-pino-latte.

    After a long 700 kms and 10.5 hours driving - knackered on arrival - finally arrived in Tak at 6 pm. Stayed at the Home Inn by the Ping River in Tak and ate there too.

    9a-Home-Inn. 9b-Home-Inn. 9c-Home-Inn.

    Next morning early, on the road home at 6:30am and cruising up Highway 1, then R106 and R108. Home at 11:30am, to the delight of the 2 lads who had not been thrilled about my 1 week absence!

    A set of "Captain America" regalia for James had him changing clothes in a heartbeat. The battery powered cow for William scared the bejesus out of him for a while, but he adores cows for reasons known only to himself...


    10a-capt-america. 10b-cowboy.

    Mission Accomplished...
     
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  2. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

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    Well Done, You certainly seem to be able to find Great Food on Your Travels!
     
  3. Kiwi Cruiser

    Kiwi Cruiser Ben Kemp
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    Food is one of the essentials of life - we all need it every day. I think that finding good food in your travels has become a lot easier than it was a decade ago. Back then, even finding a decent coffee was a mission. These days, the coffee culture has expanded nation-wide - just as it did in New Zealand 20+ years ago.

    As I'm sure you know, It has never been easy to find really good steaks or ribs done in western-style - let alone BBQ style - in most of Thailand. It really is a bit of a treat to find a restaurant that produces a big T-bone steak cooked to perfection... Especially in smaller provincial towns where the foreign population is comparatively low. If you DO find a restaurant that can serve one, it remains a lasting memory! 555

    The evolution of Google Maps and smartphones makes finding such places so much easier now days, no matter how well tucked away in the town they are! Centering the map on your location and doing a "What's Nearby" search reveals places you'd just never find unaided. Not only that, but most have a set of photographs that allow you make a choice between several options...

    You can also refine that search to; restaurants, nightlife, accommodation etc

    And of course, sharing those places with others contributes a little to everyone's traveling enjoyment and helps ensure the business will still be open next time you are passing through! That's my theory, at least...
     

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