A Mekong Meander - A Savannakhet Visa Run & Return

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by DavidFL, Jul 26, 2019.

  1. DavidFL

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    #1 DavidFL, Jul 26, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019
    Finally back & settled in after a 20 day meander - Chiang Khong - Chiang Mai - Nakhon Phanom - Savannakhet & return.
    Ex Chiang Khong 1st July & return to Chiang Khong 20 July. Total 20 days. Round trip 3,276 kms.

    The way
    Chiang Khong - Chiang Saen - Mae Chan - Tha Ton - Chiang Mai.
    Route 1290 - 1016 - 1089- 107

    Chiang Mai - Phrae
    Routes 11 - 10123

    Phrae - Dan Sai
    Routes 101 - 11 - 1246 - 1143 - 2013

    Dan Sai - Pak Chom
    Routes 2013 - 203 - 211

    Pak Chom - Nong Khai - Beung Kan - Nakhon Phanom
    Routes 211 - 2

    Nakhon Phanom - Tha Khek - Savannakhet
    Routes 212 - 295 - R13S - R9W

    Savannakhet - Mukdahan - Nakhon Phanom
    Routes 9W - R239 - R212

    Nakhon Phanom - Beung Kan - Nong Khai
    Route 212

    Nong Khai - Chiang Khan
    Routes 242 - 211

    Chiang Khan - Ban Khok
    Routes 2195 - 1268 -

    Ban Khok - Nan
    Routes 1268 - 1241 - 1123 - 1243 - 1162 - 1026 - 101

    Nan - Chiang Khong
    Routes 1091 - 1179 - 1148 - 1021 - 1020

    The trip
    Chiang Khong to Chiang Mai just a regular ride.
    However I did find a new coffee shop on R1089 that I can recommend highly
    The Aman Coffee
    upload_2019-7-26_18-14-25-.

    On GTR here: R1089 Tha Ton - Mae Chan - Coffee Shops / Restaurants

    In Chiang Mai for a quick bike service - oil & filter change, plus some socialising at the Kafe.

    The Piston Shop bike service made me nostalgic seeing a couple of lovely Africa Twins
    upload_2019-7-26_18-44-4.

    upload_2019-7-26_22-22-8.

    The socializing brought more nostalgia hooking up with Richard Na Ched Yot for a Jamesons night at the Jamesons Pub Lism
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    And Miss Bunny was a winner as the Jamesons PG
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    With a few nights in town it was also time to catch up to Ms Om, singing at the Level 9 rooftop Pub
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    Level 9 is relatively new & a fabulous location on the top of Icon Square.
    Level 9 Facebook
    Level 9 Google Maps: Google Maps

    Ms Om has an amazingly clear voice, but can sing blues & rock just as well as sweet melodies. She performed fantastically at the Ducati V4 show in Chiang Mai, for those who went & can remember.
    The Level 9 is inexpensive & well worth a visit. Top value.

    Back downtown for the last night it was a Kafe night.
    Touching base with the lovely Miss Yui, just back from a Luang Prabang holiday
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    Then a few other friends turned up for a big Kafe tonight.

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    Joe Cummings rocked up to see me collect a pristine final edition of the Nation, that the Kafe had generously kept hiden for me.

    It turned into a big night
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    such that suddenly I wasn't the only one going to Dan Sai for Phi Ta Khon festival.
    With some luck & a good local contact in Dan Sai I was able to secure a room for Zed, Sam & Les with a late night phone call.
    Woo-hoo we would be on the road soon, Savannakhet here I come via the Dan Sai Phi Ta Khon festival.

    to be continued.
     
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  2. DavidFL

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    #2 DavidFL, Jul 27, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2019
    Off to Phrae & a leisurely start riding down with Sam & Les who was late, but would catch up on the way.
    A simple ride down R11 to the Denchai turn off & junction with R101, the turn let onto R101 & roll into Phrae.

    I always enjoy riding with newbies, or people I haven;t ridden with before to see how they ride & whether they look at any of the scenery at all, or just focus on the road & their GPS.
    For me there's no GPS, it's all in the head after riding here for a few decades.
    Les never caught up, he got lost in Lampang, Sam & I cruised on down the highway & decided to take the back way into Phrae via R1023 because the weather was so damn good.

    After a leisurely hotel check into the Nam Thong

    Sam & I hit the Slope Coffee
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    The Slope has featured on GTR here before
    Phrae Restaurants
    It's a gem of an old ramshackle building that's falling over, but the coffee & ambiance are all good.
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    Sam's Black Cocoa was superb & will be on my hit list next trip.
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    Coffee stop done, it was off to the amazing Baan Thep Museum & Home Stay.
    The Baan Thep has featured on GTR before here
    The Free Thai / Seri Thai Museum - Phrae

    It's an incredible house of antiques. Sam having lived in China, was blown away by the Chinese antiques.
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    Some images to enjoy. Most of the items are hundreds of years+ old.
    The massive pieces of timber are incredible & a reminder perhaps, of what once used to be.
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    An amazing old door 100's of years old.
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    The giant entrance doors. Solid once piece of timber each door.
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    Back to the hotel & finally hook up with the embarrassed rider.

    Dinner at the T-bone Steak House blew both Les & Sam away.
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    It was inconceivable that Phrae had such a cool place as that.?

    The T-Bone Steak House has featured on GTR before here
    Phrae Restaurants

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    The food at the T-Bone Steak House was so good that we all went for seconds, or the servings were too small?
    Sadly for some the T-bone Steak House has a strict house beverages policy, so its only wine by the bottle or craft beers, which are not cheap.

    However once you come out of the T-Bone straight across the street is a new cheap charlie cocktail bar.
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    The Jamesons came out and the nights shenanigans started, leading to some fun & games at the Beach Bar..

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    Sam piked out, left early, couldn't make the two right turns to find the hotel & came back lost, to wait for the two men to guide her home just on closing.

    Phew the first night on the road was down...

    More to come.
     
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  3. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Sounds like an admirable voyage, Dave.
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #4 DavidFL, Jul 28, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019
    Off to Dan Sai the next day, & a late start, due to the fact we had trouble finding Kim's restaurant in Phrae, and which wasn't ready for breakfast when we eventually rocked up; so Wee Wee's it was.

    The magnificent bacon & cheese burrito brekky at Wee Wees.
    upload_2019-7-27_13-50-38.

    With a big thumbs up from Sam
    upload_2019-7-27_13-51-13.

    If you don't know about Wee Wee
    Phrae Restaurants
    Location: weewee - Google Search

    The original plan for the day was to hook up with the Kiwi Cruiser coming down from Chiang Mai, @ Den Chai, but on account of slow brekky & late departure Ben actually ended up a long way in front of us & we did not rendezvous until the Krua Khun Nai in Dan Sai!

    The home stay accommodation arranged for Sam, Zed & Les.
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    If you're ever going to Dan Sai for the Phi Ta Khon festival, you need to secure a room as early as possible, because it is in short supply for the festival, & everything in town gets taken asap. You should book your room at least 3 weeks in advance.
    Some GTR recommendations for Dan Sai
    Dan Sai Accommodation

    In Dan Sai the # 1 rendezvous spot is the Krua Khun Nai
    DSC_0297.JPG
    Dan Sai Restaurants
    The Kiwi Cruiser was already ensconced here waiting for the late comers & the Krua Khun Nai became our base for he next couple of days.
    DSC_0298.JPG

    Zed who left Chiang Mai later than everyone eventually turned up & the party began.
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    The Phi Ta Khon festival has featured on GTR numerous times before & there are some explanations of the event here

    Dan Sai / Phi Ta Khon 2004 Return

    Dan Sai / Phi Ta Khon 2005 Return

    Phi Ta Khon 2006

    Phi Ta Khon 2008 - Dan Sai, Loei Province - 1st Impressions

    Dad 'n Dave Go To Dan Sai - Phi Ta Khon 2009

    Chiang Mai - Dan Sai / Phi Ta Khon 2010 Return

    Phi Ta Khon Festival, Dan Sai, 2011

    Phi Ta Khon Festival - Dan Sai - 2017

    Phi Ta Khon Festival - Dan Sai - 2018

    It is the most outrageous, colourful festival that you can see in the Thailand. I must have seen close to 20 Phi Ta Khon festivals & you never get tired of this festival, it so much fun.
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    As the years go by, the masks get more elaborate & fantastic pieces of art
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    The owners of the house where Zed, Sam & Les stayed have a chicken rice restaurant next to the market & downtown night time party scene, so we chose to party around there & support them.
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    Miss Eve is the lovely grand daughter.
    DSC_0337.JPG

    The first night the gals got weary & left Les & I to party on in the beer garden
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    The party with the masked dancers gets to be quite an event
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    More to come.. the day time parade & some ghost characters...then riding the Mekong.

    DSC_0290.JPG
     
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  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Phi Ta Khon the festival

    The legend of the festival comes from from an episode in the Wetsandon Jataka about the journey home of Prince Wetsandon (the last former life of the Lord Buddha) and his wife Matsi after years of exile in the forest. The townspeople celebrating his return were so joyful that the spirits emerged to join them.
    The event lasts for 3 days, and it is the ghost parades that are the highlight of the festival for the outsiders; but for the locals the spirit ceremonies that start at first light on the first day & the temple ceremonies are just as important.

    For info on the dawn spiritual ceremonies here take a look here
    Phi Ta Khon Festival - Dan Sai - 2018

    Some images from the ghost parades
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    On the road to Nakhon Phanom ...next
     
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  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    The next hop was one I'd been looking forward to for a long time, riding along the Khong from Chiang Khan to Nakhon Phanom.
    The master plan was to have one or two nights along the way in a Mekong town that I've not slept in before.
    Pak Chom was the winner but I actually felt I was a bit of loser, over nighting in Pak Chom.
    The highlight of Pak Cham was the Kok Phai restaurants overlooking a big bend in the Khong.
    upload_2019-7-23_0-24-10-.

    Pak Chom - Kok Phai Restaurants

    upload_2019-8-8_17-42-42.

    The food was excellent, fresh & cheap
    upload_2019-7-23_0-23-55-.

    but I won't be spending another night in Pak Chom in the foreseeable future.
    Some towns always have something happening, but not Pak Chom. I was in bed by 8.30-9.00PM.

    Pak Chom to Nakhon Phanom is 480 kms "along the river" routes 211 & 212.

    Wat Hai Sok, Sang Khom
    upload_2019-8-8_18-0-59.

    R211 along the Khong is a beauty to Tha Bo, then it goes away from the Khong, from Nong Khai downstream it is R212 & also way from the Khong until after Beung Kan.
    upload_2019-8-8_18-7-11.

    Riding downstream on the 8th of July the river looked low as you'd expect in March - April before the early rains. You wouldn't normally expect this in the wet season in July!
    upload_2019-8-8_18-0-47.

    Coming back upstream again 10 days later I was gobsmacked at how little water was in the river.

    From Tha Bo there's a fabulous lane along the river
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    The lack of water in the Khong was stunning - some Vientiane views from Si Chiang Mai.
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    more to come..
     
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  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #7 DavidFL, Aug 9, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
    The return trip heading west along the Mekong....the drought & a dry Mekong.....Ban Muang is a small village on R211 between Sang Khom & Pak Chom, there's a small boat landing here for villages to cross to Laos, but it was all high and dry.
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    Google Maps
     
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  8. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Great excursion, David.
    I arrived in Pak Chom one evening back in 1986. I had no accommodation, but the Wat (I don't remember which one) was kind and let me stay there for the night, in a hut down on the banks of the Mekong. It was part of what endeared me to Thailand...
    31898296381_0796068b3f_k. B003 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    31898300241_76c6265048_k. B002 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    31977194536_99e083b608_k. B001 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr
     
  9. DavidFL

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    #9 DavidFL, Aug 9, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
    The return trip heading west along the Mekong....the drought & a dry Mekong...

    8 kms upstream from Ban Muang is the Nong Pla Buek statue & viewpoint.

    The Nong Pla Buek view on the 8th July heading downstream.
    upload_2019-8-9_14-34-31.

    9 days later on 17 July & there was a significant difference, such that I did a U-turn and hung out at the little restaurant 500 metres downstream to snap a few more images.
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    The low water was good for some to take a swim
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    For many others there was the opportunity to go fishing, lots of fish were trapped in the pools in the river bed
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    Or you could drive right out & park in the rocky bed
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    Around the corner, a few hundred metres upstream & loking upstream
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    Kaeng Khut Ku are famous rapids on the Mekong at Chiang Khan, & another 80 kms upstream. It looked like devastation all the way & there wasn't a lot going on at Kaeng Khut Ku either.
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    Scenes that you would expect to see in March - April at the height of the hot dry season, but definitely not in July in wet season!
    What the hell was going on?

    In May 2014 GTR had a Mekong boat cruise with bikes on board from Pak Lay to Vientiane & we sailed through the Kaeng Khut Ku rapids.

    The same spot in May 2014 = lots of water flowing
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    GT-Rider Mekong Cruise Part III

    upload_2019-8-9_15-29-53.

    What's the problem..... to come..
     
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    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    #10 Eoin Christie, Aug 9, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
    Damn dams?

    It is, at least for me, sad to see this mighty river whimpering. I wonder how much say the MRC actually have in dictating release flows from upstream. According to the website, levels are rising, but are below "long-term minimum" at 18 of the 22 monitoring stations. Of note is the focus on forecasting flash floods, rather than health of the river flows.
    http://www.mrcmekong.org/
     
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    The 2019 Mekong Drought & Devastation

    The arguments for responsibility are debated with conclusion: was it the "worst" drought, the lowest the river has been in decades or was it the dams - the Jinhong Dam in China & the Xayaboury dam in Laos?
    Certainly the rainfall is way below normal, but IMHO the dams have only worsened the problem by mismanagement - with holding water for reasons of maintenance and testing of power generation at the worst possible time, when there was obviously a serious drought.
    One of the main arguments for the dams was a more controlled water flow, with more in the dry season & less in the wet season. The Jinhong dam with held water for maintenance and at the same time the water level in the Xayaboury dam went up because they too with held water!

    "When China’s Jinghong dam reduced its water discharge from July 5 to 15, the level of the river in Chiang Saen, which is the uppermost water station, continuously dropped by 0.43 metres, while the level of water in Luang Prabang, which is upstream of Xayaburi, rose slightly to 0.86 metres, and the level in Chiang Khan, which is downstream to the dam, dropped by 1.77 metres."

    “Hydropower plants don’t take away a river’s water; they only retain and discharge the water to generate power, so the overall amount of water stays the same,” said Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert on Mekong Delta ecology.
    “It is the river flow that’s affected."
    Large hydropower plants with their own reservoirs can help retain water during rainy seasons and discharge water during dry seasons, which helps mitigate flooding and drought in downstream areas, according to the Vietnamese expert.
    However, during years with extreme weather conditions hydropower stations can be a double-edged sword, worsening environmental impacts on the environment.
    When there is too much rain, for example, these plants have to make an emergency discharge to avoid dam failure, which adds to the flooding in downstream areas.
    When there is a severe drought, hydropower stations need to retain enough water to maintain operations, which deprives downstream areas of the much-needed resource.

    In July 2019 it would appear as if the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing & none of the dam operators really cared what was happening downstream!


    A couple of articles presenting both sides of the story.


    Vietnam braces for severe impact of Mekong River’s record low water levels

    https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/society...ong-rivers-record-low-water-levels/50764.html

    Thursday, July 25, 2019, 15:07 GMT+7

    The Mekong River’s water level during this year’s early flood season, from June to July, is among the lowest on record, according to the Mekong River Commission (MRC), with experts warning of impending consequences on the upcoming dry season in Vietnam.

    Water levels in the Mekong River recorded in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia are all below the previous record low recorded in 1992, MRC said in a report on July 18.

    The Mekong is a trans-boundary river in Southeast Asia, formed in the Tibetan Plateau, which courses through China's Yunnan Province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam before discharging into the East Vietnam Sea.

    The water level in Thailand’s Chiang Saen District was 2.10 meters as of the time of the report, 3.02m lower than its long-term average measured over 57 years (1961-2018) and about 0.75m lower than the minimum level ever logged.

    In Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, the Mekong River waters were just 0.70m on July 18, 5.54m below its long-term average over the same period and about 1.36m lower than the minimum level.

    The water in Cambodia’s Kratie Province measured 9.31m deep, about 5.40m below its long-term average but 0.16m higher than the minimum level on record.

    At water stations in Chiang Saen, Vientiane, and Kratie water levels dropped 0.97m, 5.58m and 0.38m, respectively between June and July.

    The MRC says the relatively rapid and sustained decrease in water levels and discharge from the Mekong River in June and July 2019 is unprecedented and does not reflect the natural recession of seasonal flows.

    During this period of the year, the Mekong water should be slowly increasing, according to the MRC.

    Deficient rainfall and drier-than-average weather conditions are some of the key factors that have contributed to the current state of what is described as the “regional low flow” of the Mekong river basin, according to the MRC.

    However, the situation is expected to improve at the end of July with rain in the forecast, the commission noted.

    The MRC, established by Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia in 1995, is an intergovernmental organization for managing and coordinating the use and care of the Mekong River. China and Myanmar are also included in the commission as “dialogue partners."

    The six countries now work together in a cooperative framework.

    Chinese hydropower plants to blame?

    The MRC report also mentioned the activities of the Jinghong dam in China’s Yunnan Province as a potential contributor to the Mekong’s low flow.

    According to an official notification from China’s Ministry of Water Resources, the outflow of water from the Jinghong hydropower station in Yunnan between July 5 and 19 decreased by about half, from 1,050-1,250 cubic meters per second (m3/s) to 504-600 cubic meters per second, due to “grid maintenance."

    Eight Chinese dams built on the Mekong, or Lancang as it is called in China, have the capacity to block a combined total of over 40 billion cubic meters of water for use in electricity generation, irrigation and other purposes, according to a report on Thai PBS World, which cited numbers from Mekong Butterfly, a civic group that studies the impacts of dams constructed along the Mekong River.

    The sudden sharp drop in water levels in the Mekong was also blamed on the retention of water in the reservoir behind the Xayaburi dam in Laos from July 9 in preparation for the country’s trial run of seven electricity generators between July 17 and 29, the news site reported.

    The 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi dam, located just south of Luang Prabang in Xayaburi Province, is scheduled to begin churning out electricity this October, with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) as its primary customer.

    Loei Province in northeastern Thailand has seen the Mekong water level drop to a 57-year low since the Xayaburi dam began retaining water, according to Bangkok Post.

    Hoang Thien, a Vietnamese national who was in the Golden Triangle area in Chiang Rai, Thailand on Saturday last week told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper temperatures were 37-38 degrees Celsius with very low humidity.

    “The water level was so low we could easily see through to the river bed,” Thien said.

    “Only small boats could travel on the [Mekong] River, and I overheard a Thai guide telling a Chinese tourist ‘mei you shui’ [no water] when describing the river’s situation,” she said.

    El Nino + hydropower = worse situation

    “Hydropower plants don’t take away a river’s water; they only retain and discharge the water to generate power, so the overall amount of water stays the same,” said Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert on Mekong Delta ecology.

    “It is the river flow that’s affected."

    Large hydropower plants with their own reservoirs can help retain water during rainy seasons and discharge water during dry seasons, which helps mitigate flooding and drought in downstream areas, according to the Vietnamese expert.

    However, during years with extreme weather conditions hydropower stations can be a double-edged sword, worsening environmental impacts on the environment.

    When there is too much rain, for example, these plants have to make an emergency discharge to avoid dam failure, which adds to the flooding in downstream areas.

    When there is a severe drought, hydropower stations need to retain enough water to maintain operations, which deprives downstream areas of the much-needed resource.

    “We are currently going through an El Nino phase that causes lack of rain and is expected to last for another two months, according to a July 15 report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” Thien said.

    “All these hydropower dams are only worsening the situation."

    All signs are pointing to a historically low flood season in Vietnam this year, said Dr. Le Anh Tuan from Can Tho University, located in the namesake city of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region.

    A low flood season can lead to decreasing illuviation, depleting aquamarine resources and salination, which affects crop yields, Tuan said.

    “If agriculture and environment authorities don’t issue official instructions and have plans for water retention right now, the upcoming dry season will become much worse,” he warned.

    Xayaburi Dam partly to blame for Mekong Basin crisis: activists

    https://www.nationthailand.com/news/30373621
    Jul 25. 2019

    Activists say some of the blame for the severe water shortage in the Mekong River Basin lies with the Xayaburi hydropower dam in Laos.

    Though dam operator CK Power PCL has strongly denied it is storing water in the dam’s reservoir and causing an extraordinary reduction of water levels downstream, hydrological information cited by Montree Chantawong from Mekong Butterfly suggests that the 1,260-megawatt dam is to blame for unnatural fluctuations in water levels and flow downstream.

    Even though the rainy season has already begun in the Mekong region, the river is not bursting its banks like it usually does. Instead it is dry as it would have been in the middle of the drought season, causing widespread water shortage and mass deaths of aquatic animals.

    Montree said that though a lower discharge of water from dams in China and the ongoing severe drought in the Mekong River Basin were the key contributing factors to this unseasonal drying up of the river, the Xayaburi hydropower dam, which was recently built on the river’s mainstream northern Laos, is intensifying the severity of the situation.

    “Though the dam operator insists its project has no influence on the Mekong water level downstream, we have noticed that the level of the river between Chiang Saen, Luang Prabang and Chiang Khan have changed unnaturally and inconsistently,” he said.

    “Under normal circumstances, the change in the water level in these three spots must be similar because they are situated next to one another.”

    Instead, he said, when China’s Jinghong dam reduced its water discharge from July 5 to 15, the level of the river in Chiang Saen, which is the uppermost water station, continuously dropped by 0.43 metres, while the level of water in Luang Prabang, which is upstream of Xayaburi, rose slightly to 0.86 metres, and the level in Chiang Khan, which is downstream to the dam, dropped by 1.77 metres.

    These bizarre changes at the three stations and the inconsistent fluctuations upstream and downstream of Xayaburi dam, he said, are a clear indication that the dam is not being operated strictly on run-of-river basis as claimed.

    Moreover, he said, there is no public access to data on the amount of water flowing in and out of the Xayaburi dam, and there is no way of verifying if this dam is being operated strictly on a run-of-river basis – meaning the outflow matches the inflow of water into the dam.

    “Xayaburi dam certainly has a reservoir that can store up to 514 million cubic metres of water and it is up to the dam’s management to decide whether it will discharge water that matches the amount of the inflow,” Montree said.

    However, Xayaburi Power’s deputy manager Anuparp Wonglakorn insisted that the dam is being operated on a run-of-river basis, and has had nothing to do with the water shortage downstream of the Mekong.

    “We too are victims of this serious drought and the reduction in water discharged from Chinese dams, and because we’ve received a low amount of water to operate, we’re forced to limit our electricity generation,” Anuparp said.

    He claimed that Xayaburi Dam had only received water at a flow rate of around 1,700 cubic metres per second, which forced them to only operate three power turbines and generate a mere 500MW.

    He also said that since the operation of the dam has been stopped, it will not be storing any water and will instead release all the excess through spillways. Hence, he said, the dam cannot cause any adverse impact downstream, as suspected by many.

    However, CK Power has refused to share the inflow and outflow levels of the dam, saying this information was classified as it’s based on the company’s contract with the Lao government.


    Aquatic life faces extinction as upstream dams leave Mekong River dry

    https://www.nationthailand.com/news/30373286
    Jul 19. 2019

    The Mekong River’s extremely low level of water caused by upstream hydropower dam projects has triggered the death of masses of fish and heightened the risk of mass extinction of aquatic life in the entire Mekong River Basin, environmental experts highlighted on Friday.

    They said that the ongoing loss of biodiversity in the Mekong Basin is posing a major threat to food security and wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people in the region.

    Narit Art-harn, a representative of locals in Bueng Kan’s Bung Khla district, revealed that the level of the Mekong this week was lower than the lowest during the dry season, even though mid-July is normally the rainy season and the river should be full and even overflowing.

    “We are facing an extraordinary situation, because instead of the seasonal floods that we usually face this time of year, we are now encountering a severe drought, which is bad for both the people and the ecosystem,” Narit said.

    He said that even though fishermen in Bueng Kan were able to catch more fish due to the very low level of water, many of the fish they caught have bellies full of eggs, because this is the breeding season for many of the species in the Mekong.

    Hence, he said, he is deeply concerned that this might be the last season for the fishermen to get an abundant catch because these fish might soon be extinct.

    “The extremely low level of water is killing these fish, because it is preventing them from entering tributaries to lay eggs in flooded forests and swamps, which means an entire generation of fish will vanish,” he emphasised.

    He also called on the Thai government to take more proactive steps to protect people living along the banks of the Mekong River and its tributaries from the transboundary impacts caused by hydropower dams in China and Laos.

    Chainarong Setthachua, an academic from Maha Sarakham University, said many fish were found “cooked” in the hot water of ponds in the Mekong riverbed in Nong Khai’s Sangkhom district after the water level receded due to a recent reduction in water discharged from China’s Jinghong Dam and a test-run operation at Laos’ Xayaburi Dam.

    Nonn Panitvong, founder of Siamensis.org and prominent freshwater fish expert, insisted that fish in the Mekong River was the most important food security for people living across the Mekong Basin.

    Hence, he said, that by ignoring the serious loss of biodiversity for the sake of hydropower dams, the governments in the region are trading ecosystems that sustain tens of millions of people for the wealth of a handful of investors.

    “When they [the authorities and investors] build new hydropower dams, they claim energy stability as the reason, but in the end, people cannot eat electricity. Fish and vegetables from the river are actually our food,” Nonn stressed.

    Niwat Roikaew, chief of Chiang Rai’s environmental conservation group Rak Chiang Khong, said that he will send a petition detailing the Mekong River’s bizarre water levels and other impacts China’s upstream hydropower projects are having on people to the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok soon.

    “I want a productive discussion based on academic information with Chinese authorities to mitigate the adverse impact these hydropower dams are having on the ecosystems and the people of the Mekong River Basin,” Niwat said.

    “If China wants to be a superpower, it must improve its standards of environmental protection on all its projects, otherwise negative feedback from harmful projects will affect its reputation globally.”

    Opinion: Mekong Region Needs to Overcome Drought Together

    http://www.khaosodenglish.com/opini...ng-region-needs-to-overcome-drought-together/

    Khaosod English - August 8, 2019 7:22 pm

    Key points: Thailand and other countries in the Mekong Region have been suffering more and more severe droughts for the past five decades. Not only do they need a long-term plan to cope with the ongoing crisis, but also require regional cooperation as well.

    By Dr. Liu Hui, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research

    Drought, follows flood and storm, is among the most influential natural disasters in the world. According to 2018 publication on the International Disaster Database website, 16% of people affected by disasters in 2018 were affected by droughts.

    Over the past few decades, countries along the Lancang-Mekong River have experienced different degrees of drought events, causing tremendous impacts on agriculture, fisheries, production and life.

    The Lancang-Mekong region is facing raising temperature like the other places in the world. According to surface temperature of January to March, 2019 is the 3rd warmest of 170 years. As news released by WMO, the Earth just had the warmest June on record.

    The temperature departure from historical average is around 1 Degree Celsius in the Lancang-Mekong region in 2019.

    When high temperature is accompanied with strong El Niño or weakened Southwest monsoon, long-lasting severe drought will take place in this region, like the whole-basin exceptional drought in 2016 and the long-lasting extensively affected drought this year.
    A Warmer Era

    According to meteorological data, the rainfall in Lancang River basin was 42 percent less than average during January to mid July 2019.

    Low rainfall in early Wet Season this year was also reported by Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRCS) in its weekly flood situation reports since June.

    According to the drought index (SPEI) of January to June 2019, drought occurred in the whole Lancang-Mekong region.

    For the Lancang basin, the drought severity got heavier since March, and reached severe level in May; For the middle Mekong basin (Thailand, part of Lao PDR and Cambodia), the severity of drought stayed moderate to severe level since the beginning of the year; For the Mekong delta region, the drought happened in February and April, and ended in May.

    The reservoirs on Lancang mainstream stored part of the water during the wet season of 2018, and released supplementary water to the Mekong River during January to June 2019, and the water level of reservoirs gradually dropped to the dead storage level in early July.

    Considering running out of the “supplementary” capacity, the Jinghong reservoir decided to implement the routine overhaul from 5th to 19th July, during which reasonable outflow was maintained.

    A notification of the operation information during the overhaul was sent from the Ministry of Water Resources, China to mekong countries and MRCS in advance on 3rd July. And MRCS timely published the information on its website on 3rd July, titled Water flow from China’s Jinghong station to fluctuate, but no major impact is expected.

    Recently, news coverage about drought this year has been increasing and drawn more and more attentions from farmers to senior administration officials.

    According to the Cambodia Daily on July 20, 2019, an extended drought in Cambodia has caused the tributaries of Tonle Sap lake to dry up, spelling ruin for farmers and fishermen in Battambang province. Villagers in this district have been unable to fish since April because of the drought. They are now running out of food and have pleaded with the government to give them emergency relief.

    The drought situation in Thailand is so severe that the government has asked China, Laos and Myanmar to release more water into rivers to help relieve the drought conditions in Thailand said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on 24 July 2019.

    Based on long time observation and research on the drought study in the Lancang-Mekong region, I would like to take this opportunity to share my findings and suggestions with riparian stakeholders and decision makers, with the aim to improve our drought relief ability jointly to make a more secure Lancang-Mekong region.
    Findings

    (1) The results of meteorological drought analysis show that the drought severity in northeastern Thailand, most of Cambodia and Myanmar has increased over the past half century, especially in some parts of northeastern Thailand.

    In most parts of the basin, the frequency of meteorological drought is close to 25% due to low rainfall, especially in northeastern Thailand and Cambodia; and Cambodia and Vietnam Delta in the lower reaches are more liable to severe and exceptional droughts.

    By analyzing the causes of typical drought events, it is found that the main reason for the drought in the Mekong River Basin is the extraordinary less rainfall (compared with that in the same period in history) caused by El Nino and anomalies of atmosphere-ocean circulation system.

    (2) Because of the differences between the national economic supporting capacity and development of water conservancy projects, the drought resistance ability of different countries is different.

    Among them, the distribution of irrigated areas is uneven in Cambodia and the ability of drought resistance in different regions is different. The number of irrigation projects and irrigation area in Lao PDR is relatively small and drought resistance ability is slightly inadequate.

    Vietnam and Thailand have built relatively high-density, large-scale irrigation projects and irrigation network, which is expected to provide a better engineering guarantee for the development of drought resistance.
    Suggestions

    (1) Exploit potentialities and enhance the ability of countries to cope with natural disasters.

    The Mekong River Basin countries have established organization system for disaster prevention and reduction to deal with drought disasters.

    Although there is a significant correlation between the national drought relief capacity and economic and social development level, the consensus of the whole basin on improving the drought relief structural measures is also very important.

    Based on the viewpoint of engineering, though countries like Thailand and Vietnam have taken adequate measures to combat drought, it seems still necessary to enhance the drought relief engineering construction to cope with severe drought.

    (2) Make overall plans and coordinate to enhance the disaster mitigation ability from the whole-basin perspective.

    Though the reservoirs on Lancang mainstream have played a “supplementary” role by using the storage and regulation capacity and released about 140 percent more water than that of natural flow this year to the Mekong River during January to June 2019, the low water level status of hydrological stations on lower reaches of the Mekong mainstream still occurred.

    It is due to the fact that the flow contribution of Lancang River to the whole Lancang-Mekong basin is only around 20% and 11% in dry season and wet season respectively. When whole-basin drought happens, more measures should be considered from the whole-basin perspective.

    It is suggested that the tributaries along the mekong river should play more important role in regulating and storing water. Besides, The reservoirs built in the Mekong River Basin have a capacity of more than 20 billion m3.

    It is suggested that the possible positive role of these reservoirs in drought relief in all countries and the whole basin should be studied in depth, and the impacts of drought relief projects on the water disasters in the downstream regions or countries should be deeply analyzed while they alleviate the local disasters to lay a foundation for the overall coordination of the basin.

    (3) Make full use of the regional cooperation mechanisms to promote the whole-basin cooperation level.

    Among the several cooperation mechanisms in the Lancang-Mekong region (MRC, GMS, Golden Quadrangle Program etc.), the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism was established by all six riparian countries of Lancang-Mekong River in 2016, which provides a new platform for dialogue and cooperation from the whole basin perspective.

    Water resources is one of the five priority areas under the LMC mechanism. Joint Working Groups on water resources under the LMC mechanism consisting of line agencies of the six LMC countries and the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center established in Beijing, which mark the establishment of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources mechanism in 2017.

    The following cooperation topics are recommended to be carried out under the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources mechanism.

    They include enhancing information sharing and countermeasure consultation through Joint Working Groups on water resources of LMC, research on climate change impacts and adaptation measures in the Lancang-Mekong basin and research on joint operation of the reservoirs in the whole basin, so as to make full use of the regulation capacity to cope with natural disasters.

    Note: Dr. Liu Hui was the project leader of “Joint Assessment on Flood Prevention and Drought Relief in Mekong River Basin (Phase I)”, which was carried out by experts from six member countries under the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism in 2018.

    She is also among the core experts of the joint research “Hydrological Impacts oof the Lancang Hydropower Cascade on Downstream Extreme Events” in cooperation with MRC and IWMI.

     
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  12. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Thanks, David.
    Aside from the actual drought conditions, on the natural flow, one would think that the parameters for storage / release decisions should not be that difficult to define, with separate mechanisms for handling commercial concerns.

    Aside from aesthetic and environmental concerns about damming the Mekong (a bit late now...), dams can, indeed, provide accumulator-type buffering of extremes, as long as they have sufficient storage already in place (and the decision-making process identified and engaged). Where the storage is at full capacity (unlikely for some time, given the way things are going), they don't make things worse in flood situations, as they revert to run-of-river (ie the flow, although potentially damaging, is what the river would have flowed without the dam in place).

    A different problem is when river flow is low, and the dams still try to build capacity (which is what some are reporting currently). It is odd, to me, that dam levels are treated as commercially sensitive, as other Countries do report dam levels, which are very easily measured. Short of that data, all that can be done is measure levels above and below dams, and extrapolate to get indicative variance.

    It is, I think, rather scary to think that decisions on flows may be determined by commercial over consequential drivers. Shutting in releases for "grid maintenance" may suggest not wanting to 'waste' potential energy through releases whilst turbines are not available. If that is not the case, a little transparency would help.

    Large energy infrastructure has traditionally been government-initiated and owned, because of both the complexity of consequences, and the very long return on investment (ROI). As the global shift has been towards private and quasi-private investment, ROI becomes critical in decision-making, which is why the rules of engagement need to be very clear, and transparent. That may include mechanisms for compensating loss of revenue when restrictions, such as non-generating storage release, are engaged.

    A slightly waffling ramble on my part, but when buffering control over flood and drought is part of the sales campaign for installing dams, it should be demonstrable when the circumstance arises.
     
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Back on the road. Nakhon Phanom & entering Laos..

    Nakhon Phanom is my 2nd favourite town on the Mekong and is a classic beauty, steeped in history with a wonderful mix of people.
    NKP has seven different Thai - Lao ethnic groups, as well as Chinese and Vietnamese.The Vietnamese influence is quite healthy, especially with the 3 Ho Chi Minh memorial sites nearby.

    Nakhon Phanom - An Out Of The Way Old Communist Province?

    In Nakhon Phanom it's time to chill out for a couple of days & get laundry done
    The Rabphorn Inn. is the place to stay
    gtr-img_0974-.

    gtr-img_0975-.

    Nakhon Phanom Accommodation

    And the Decafe is a magic riverside Pub & Restaurant to hang out at
    upload_2019-8-17_14-13-27.

    But there are numerous other nice little eating establishments in NKP
    Nakhon Phanom Restaurants
    it's the sort of town that grabs you in a cool laid back way & makes you linger longer to hang out.


    On arrival I lucked out with the annual NKP parade & festival to pay home to the Phaya Nak guardian @ Nakhon Phanom.
    upload_2019-8-17_14-31-47.

    I was lucky enough to get some photos of the massive parade & dancing.
    upload_2019-8-17_14-32-13.

    upload_2019-8-17_14-32-25.

    upload_2019-8-17_14-32-38.

    upload_2019-8-17_14-32-48.



    upload_2019-8-17_14-36-6.
     
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  14. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Excellent, David. NKP was my first realisation in Thailand that “I could happily live here”. I must make a trip back there.
    Thank you for posting these threads that get the cranial sparks flying.
     
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #15 DavidFL, Aug 18, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
    9 July 2019 & time to have a stab at exiting Thailand across the Friendship Bridge FB4 to Tha Khek.
    Whilst Savannakhet is opposite Mukdahan, the next town down & there is a bridge, FB2, linking both Savan & Mukdhanan, I knew the oficials both sides were not so friendly.
    Ive tried to exit at Mukdahan before & been refused and I've exited once at Savannakhet on the Africa Twin with some effort; so the safe bet for a visa run to Savan was to try NKP / TK first, & if not successful, then just ride to Mukdahan, try again, and if that failed just park the bike & bus over.

    So....the Nakhon Phanom immigration didn't baulk at me leaving.
    I handed in my documents to leave, no questions asked and the forms were issued.
    Customs next, no problem either, documents done, & then a supervisor came over to suggest it was not a good idea, I may not get into Laos.
    That's my problem, I will sort it out or come back, don't worry.

    The Mekong @ FB4
    upload_2019-8-18_1-0-15.

    upload_2019-8-18_1-1-4.

    And....it wasn't any real problem on the Laos side, although there was some hilarious confusion over issuing my visa & getting passport stamped.

    The Foreign Affairs gal issuing the visa was an absolute honey, a captivating beauty, so lung felt a great need to practice his language skills.
    I was doing so well, that I got her flustered and she issued my visa free, but accidentally put a visa used stamp on the visa.
    So that when I walked 10 metres to the immigration booth, the immigration officer refused to stamp me in as the visa was stamped used!
    You can't come in. We cannot scan that visa it is stamped used.
    Well no it is not, because I have not come in yet. You have been watching me all the time, I'm the only person here trying to come in.
    upload_2019-8-18_1-4-7.
    Back to the Foreign affairs gal, and she realizes she has made a mistake, putting the wrong stamp on.
    They are in an absolute quandary what to do.
    No problem I said, it was a free visa because I am over 65. Just issue another free visa.
    The immigration officer is astounded. Free?
    Yes free, I'm over 65.
    Another discussion ensues with the embarrassed Foreign Affairs gal.
    Oh oh you're not born in Laos, of Lao descent?
    No I'm Australian, born in Australia.
    Sorry sorry, I thought you were Lao because you spoke Lao with me.
    You have to pay for your visa. (Apparently people of Laos descent over the age of 65 but with a foreign passport, do not have to pay for their visa.)
    Ok no problem. Visa paid, lets go.....
    No No we cant process that visa & let you in.
    Bloody hell, come on guys it is simple.
    I have not used it or come in yet. Just stamp me in.
    No cannot. It is still a problem
    Off they go to see the boss upstairs....
    Back in 15 minutes & the Foreign Affairs gal goes to work with the Tipp-Ex on the Used Visa stamp in my passport.
    The 'Visa Used" letters are carefully Tipp-Exed out, the Tipp-Ex is dried, & a new Visa Paid stamp goes on over the top.
    Woo-hoo that's acceptable. We can stamp you in now!
    45 minutes + wasted.
    Next step customs who have been merrily watching the whole episode.
    They must have felt sympathetic, because they processed my entry as quick as it has ever been done.
    I was in. Yeehar. 1.5 hours and all clear on the Laos side.

    Savannakhet next stop..
    2 hrs later I was having a happy hour beer by the Khong

    upload_2019-8-18_1-10-6.


    upload_2019-8-18_1-10-39.
     
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  16. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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  17. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #17 DavidFL, Aug 18, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
    Arrival in Savannakhet was on a Thursday, just in time to drop my passport off on Friday morning, then pick it up on Monday with a nice new one year visa.
    I'd heard rumours of & seen photos of crowds queuing up for a visa, but I was in luck.
    Only 7 people in the queue Friday morning, then it was a relaxing couple of days hanging out in Savan to pick up my passport on the Monday.
    I figured because of having to wait in Savannakhet over the weekend might put people off applying for their visa on a Friday. So if you've got time & don't want to be in the queue standing in the sun out in the street with scores other visa applicants, put your visa application in on a FRiday.

    Now, as luck would have it, on the Friday going for brunch at the Lin's Cafe I bumped into my "Lao brother" Inthy from Green Discovery / Kopchaideu fame in Vientiane.
    Incredibly, Inthy had just arrived in town 45 minutes earlier. Fate & destiny if it ever was.
    Inthy is an old mate, we've ridden together to both Phonsavan and Luang Prabang, done serious partying together, plus he sucked me into his zipling with his Tree Top Explorer Zipline @ Paksong in 2011.

    Chiang Mai – Attapeu Via Siphandon (Mekong 4000 Islands) Return

    So hanging out with Inthy I got to check out the new hot spots in Savan.
    Inthy is a big player in the Lao tourism scene & is very fond of Savannakhet & the south now. Vang Vieng has been trashed & the Chinese are taking over elsewhere with no respect paid to the heritage, beauty, culture and charm of the towns they are moving into. He feels a lot better in the south & has an amazing zipline & skywalk project going at the Phouphaman limestone forest viewpoint.
    upload_2019-8-18_15-54-41.




    Google Maps


    In November this year they have organised a vintage festival to promote the culture of old Savannakhet.
    The event is being organised together with a couple of Thai friends, investors in the old Savannakhet.
    It is called Savan Fun Fest 2019 & the dates are 22-24 November 2019
    upload_2019-7-26_21-57-33-.
    There will be 60-70s music, old movies shown, old photos of Savannakhet, plus people will be dressed in old style clothes.
    Old classic - vintage cars & bikes will also be featured.
    Check it out if you are in the area.

    The Savan Cafe, owned by a cool Thai guy & joint organizer of the Savan Fun Fest
    upload_2019-7-15_11-36-57-.

    an old beautifully restored Savan Cafe also has rooms for rent.

    The rooftop dining is magic & well worth tackling the spiral staircase to get to.
    upload_2019-7-14_22-19-32-.

    Another Thai friend has just moved into Savan an opened the Futa O, Japanese restaurant
    upload_2019-7-14_21-38-9-.
    This a beautifully restored old building on the corner just by the night market in old Savan, downtown.

    We got to test out the place before it was officially opened.
    upload_2019-7-14_21-39-12-.

    The chef is a young Thai guy who has worked in 5-star hotels around Thailand.
    The food & presentation was excellent
    upload_2019-7-14_21-40-28-.

    The other old building to check out was the old colonial building that was the residence of the first governor of Savannakhet.
    upload_2019-8-18_16-13-26.

    It now belongs to Inthy, he bought it to save it from being knocked down by developers.

    upload_2019-8-18_16-15-35.

    It is open as an old cocktail bar at the moment, while he decides exactly what to do with it.

    Le Corbeau Bar.

    Google Maps

    upload_2019-8-18_16-16-17.
    The rundown nature of the premises inside certainly gives the place a lot of character.
    upload_2019-8-18_16-16-32.

    and that was Savan, apart from enjoying the Sooksavan Cafe
    gtr-img_6261-.

    Plus the Macchiato Cafe
    upload_2019-7-14_16-49-45-.

    Savan is a cool little town to hang out inm, but you do need transport, the town is so big & sprawling.

    Savannakhet Restaurants

    If I was to live in Laos, Savannakhet would surely be one of the options to consider.

    Back on the road again soon...heading home.
     
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  18. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #18 DavidFL, Aug 25, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019
    Eventually after a few nights in Savan I picked up my passport on the Monday afternoon & headed straight off to Thailand.
    The master plan was to exit across the bridge at Savannakhet to Mukdahan, but if that failed just ride north back up to Tha Khek & back into Nakhon Phanom.
    The roads are a lot better and easier on the Thai side, so to exit at Savan was much more preferable.
    Immigration were cool to let me go and so was customs, and then there was a policeman who first said no, but lung persuaded him that it was going to be ok for me. I had done it all before.
    He relented & agreed, but 4 other cops overhead & decided the verdict should be no!
    Bikes are not allowed on the bridge. Yes But I've been across before, ok look at my passport & I've just come from Tha Khek.
    No you cant go.
    Yes I can. I can ride across the bridge, just like all the other bridges I have ridden across.
    I give them a copy of the GTR Laos guide mapo with my photo on the back.
    No you cannot go. You have to put the bike in a pick up.
    No pick up I can ride across.
    No get a pick up.
    A pick up will cost 500 baht, I will give you 500 baht now & ride across.
    No you cannot go. It is dangerous riding across the bridge, you might have an accident.
    WTF I thought.
    No problem and I show them photos of me with the bike in all the far flung provinces of Laos - Phongsali, Xam Neua, Attapeu.... I am a professional rider. It is not dangerous for me to ride across the bridge.
    Get a pick up.
    No pick up I am riding across.
    And so it went on - the game of bluff.
    If I cant ride across here, I will ride back to Tha Khek in 1.5 hours then ride cross the bridge there, the same! Easy, but I am not putting the bike in a pick up to ride across the bridge here....
    Ok you go & the cops all walked away & left me!
    Victory! Lung wore them down. That was bloody well done I think. A good 30 minutes of BS backwards & forwards. Grrh, but persistence paid off.

    Off I went across the bridge.
    upload_2019-8-25_23-30-14.
    On the Mukdahan side entering Thailand there were no issues, just a queue for immigration as a bus had just arrived from the Laos side.

    upload_2019-8-25_23-30-29.
     
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  19. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #19 DavidFL, Aug 30, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
    Savannakhet to Nakhon Phanom
    Back on the Thai side it was a quick blast up R212 to Nakhon Phanom
    It was a mere 112 kms from Savannakhet to Nakhon Phanom & there's not a lot of elevation change. Just a gentle flat, slightly undulating road.

    GPS-Map008.

    Arrival time in NKP was 5.11PM, after checking out of my hotel in Savannakhet at 12.45.
    Just one night in NKP, checking out a bit more night life

    upload_2019-8-30_1-6-11.


    upload_2019-8-30_1-6-25.

    upload_2019-8-30_1-6-38.

    upload_2019-8-30_1-6-49.

    and the highlight of the night was the 100th LIve House Pub. A classic pub in a 100 year old building.
    upload_2019-8-30_1-26-47.

    Google Maps

    upload_2019-8-30_1-28-11.

    upload_2019-8-30_1-27-3.
    a fabulous spot to sit outside, relax and enjoy some nice music, food in fresh clean air by the Mekong.

    upload_2019-8-30_1-28-39.

    upload_2019-8-30_1-28-54.

    upload_2019-8-30_1-29-7.
     
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  20. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #20 DavidFL, Aug 30, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
    Nakhon Phanom to Nong Khai = 322 easy kms.
    upload_2019-8-30_15-50-48.

    upload_2019-8-30_15-52-59.

    I took my time & stopped off to check out the confluence of the Nam Songkram & the Mekong.

    upload_2019-8-30_16-28-28.

    Google Maps


    upload_2019-8-30_16-28-41.

    The Songkram River
    The Songkhram is 420 kms long & one of the more important but lesser known rivers in Thailand's northeast.
    It is the last Mekong tributary in Thailand free of developments blocking river flow.
    Fish can swim freely into the Songkhram River from the Mekong and use it as a spawning ground. This replenishes the fish stocks that are an indispensable food source for inhabitants of the Mekong region.
    The lower Songkhram River basin provides habitat for 192 species of fish, 136 species of birds, and 208 plant species; it has been nominated as a protected area under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance as a result of the combined efforts of local governments
    Long may it flow freely if possible!

    Thailand’s last untouched Mekong tributary

    Damming Isan's last free-flowing river for cash

    Some Mekong views
    upload_2019-8-30_16-29-11.

    upload_2019-8-30_16-29-28.

    upload_2019-8-30_16-29-40.

    270 kms later I was in Nong Khai looking forward to a rendezvous night with Swiss Peter & his wife Panita.
    The Pantawee Hotel was my cheap charly place of stay in Nong Khai

    Google Maps

    Dinner with Peter & Panita was a ripper night with too much food, refreshing beverages & a decent view over the Khong.
    upload_2019-8-30_16-37-25.

    Just a few snacks we thought, and it went on for a few hours. One of Thailand's great attributes is the food. Always so good, and the longer you stay here the more you appreciate it, and the more you miss it when you are away overseas.
    upload_2019-8-30_16-42-7.

    The venue: the Krua Kru Nong
    Google Maps
     
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  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #21 DavidFL, Aug 31, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
    Nong Khai - Chiang Khan - Ban Khok.
    upload_2019-8-31_0-3-24.

    One night in Chiang Khan before a night in the boonies @ Ban Khok & what a difference between Chiang Khan & Ban Khok

    Chiang Khan: Google Maps

    Ban Khok: Google Maps

    Nong Khai to Chiang Khan is a leisurely ride 202 kms ride along the Khong, but I'm awestruck now by the lack of water in the river.
    img_5577-.

    upload_2019-8-9_14-38-3-.

    This has already been detailed here

    Chiang Khan where to stay: Chiang Khan Accommodation

    Chiang Khan where to eat: Chiang Khan Restaurants

    Chiang Khan to Ban Khok is roughly 429 kms, first along along the Khong, then the Nam Heung, then through the mountains near the Laos border.
    I stopped in as many riverside villages as I could along the way, plus a remote Thai - Laos border crossing I "stumbled on"

    Pottering along R2195 from Chiang Khan the Mekong sand dunes beside the road were impressive. Its amazing how much sand is being dredged from the river & there's no doubt there's big money in sand for construction all over S E Asia.

    upload_2019-8-31_0-31-40.

    upload_2019-8-31_0-31-52.

    upload_2019-8-31_0-32-3.

    In Vietnam & Cambodia sand dredging has become a serious issue.
    Check out some of these links

    The Environmental Costs of Sand Mining on the Mekong

    Dramatic Photos Show How Sand Mining Threatens a Way of Life in Southeast Asia

    Illegal sand mining in Vietnam reaches 'epidemic' proportions

    The Connection Between Sand Mining and Poverty in Cambodia | The Borgen Project

    Cambodia bans sand exports to Singapore after pressure from environmental groups

    The Hidden Environmental Toll of Mining the World’s Sand

    There was a deserted magnificent sandy beach Had Hae, just 13 kms upstream from Chiang Khan.
    upload_2019-8-31_0-37-10.

    upload_2019-8-31_0-37-24.

    upload_2019-8-31_0-37-34.

    upload_2019-8-31_0-37-46.

    The google maps location: Google Maps

    Another 11 kms upstream is the sleepy hamlet of Tha Di Mi.
    Tha Di Mi is known for the confluence of the Nam Heuang & The Mekong rivers.

    Going upstream from here the Mekong goes away from the border & does not come back to be the border between Thailand & Laos until Kaeng Pha Dai at Wiang Kaen, near Chiang Khong.

    You can ride through the village & head out to the big new Buddha & skywalk being built directly above the confluence.
    upload_2019-8-31_1-12-15.

    upload_2019-8-31_1-4-22.

    The Big Buddha & a Skywalk is still under construction.
    upload_2019-8-31_1-12-37.

    The views however are still stupendous without the skywalk.

    Looking upstream
    upload_2019-8-31_1-13-31.

    The confluence of the two rivers
    upload_2019-8-31_1-13-55.

    You can check in at the oficial kms marker too
    upload_2019-8-31_1-14-35.

    To be continued ..
     
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  22. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Nong Khai - Chiang Khan - Ban Khok continued..

    R2195 from Chiang Khan used to be a pig of a road, but it is a beauty to ride now, especially where it winds alongside the Nam Heuang River
    upload_2019-8-31_16-52-16.

    upload_2019-8-31_16-53-14.

    Ban Na Chan is a charming little rural backwater village situated on the banks of the Nam Heuang.

    upload_2019-8-31_16-56-53.

    Google Maps

    Wat Phon Sawang in Ban Na Chan.
    upload_2019-8-31_16-55-40.

    upload_2019-8-31_16-55-55.

    Back on R2195
    upload_2019-8-31_16-57-37.

    upload_2019-8-31_17-6-7.

    The road follows the Nam Heuang
    upload_2019-8-31_16-58-7.

    Nong Phue is the next stop along the river. It's another cute backwater river town on the Nam Heaung.
    upload_2019-8-31_17-8-33.

    It is has a strategic location and is almost encircled by the Nam Heuang River

    Some port & river views at Nong Phue
    upload_2019-8-31_17-14-38.

    upload_2019-8-31_17-10-36.

    Who needs a boat if you can walk across to Laos on the other side?
    upload_2019-8-31_17-10-59.

    A wat on the Laos side
    upload_2019-8-31_17-18-44.

    upload_2019-8-31_17-16-1.

    The Lao town on the other side - it wasn't until I got home that I realised it was Khenthao!
    Time to go back to Laos for another look around...it's not far across that river. 55

    upload_2019-8-31_17-27-0.

    13 kms from Nong Phue is the International Border Crossing to Laos.
    On the Thai side it is called Nakraseng & on the Lao side it is called Khentao.
    upload_2019-8-31_17-32-19.

    The trucks from Thailand take Absolute Petroleum to Laos.
    upload_2019-8-31_17-33-19.

    To be continued...
     
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  23. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    #23 DavidFL, Sep 2, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
    Nong Khai - Chiang Khan - Ban Khok continued..

    Phrathat Manao Diao
    upload_2019-9-1_15-59-1.

    Google Maps Location: Google Maps

    From Nakraseng the roads starts to wind up in the mountains. Na Haeo is the next convenient stop.
    upload_2019-9-1_15-38-28.

    Nakrsaeng to Na Haeo is 61 kms
    upload_2019-9-1_15-30-50.


    upload_2019-9-1_16-1-14.

    The road still follows the Nam Heuang river & the border most of the way.
    upload_2019-9-1_16-4-17.

    Because I've been travelling slowly & getting hot, too hot in the process I lingered longer at the mini mart come petrol station in Na Haeo.
    Google Maps
    Then realised I was running a bit late, hurried to get on my bike and move on before it got too late. Ban Khok was my destination for the night, and in my haste I completely forgot about checking out the Na Haeo / Nam Heuang border crossing & waterfall. In retrospect I should have spent the night in Na Haeo.

    The border crossing: Google Maps

    The waterfall: Google Maps

    At Na Haeo the route # changes to R1268 & heading north you're starting on one of the more remote & isolated mountain routes in North Thailand.
    upload_2019-9-1_17-24-42.

    The Na Haeo - Ban Khok elevation profile
    upload_2019-9-1_17-18-22.


    The views and scenery coming up out of Na Haew are superb
    upload_2019-9-1_16-16-44.

    upload_2019-9-1_16-17-44.

    Wat Si Pho Chai is 15 kms north-west of Na Haeo
    upload_2019-9-1_16-37-14.

    upload_2019-9-1_16-40-27.

    upload_2019-9-1_16-39-37.

    The google maps location: Google Maps

    Note that there is another wat near Na Haeo with a similar name: Wat Pho Chai Na Phueng. Google Maps Location: Google Maps
    These two wats are often confused by farang.
    Wat Si Po Chai is more than 400 years old, and was built in the same time as Wat Pho Chai Na Phueng. The Ubosot has a unique architecture in Lao style.

    It is an exhilarating isolated road winding through the mountains along the border.
    Generally deserted with no traffic or villages = you don't want to break down out here.
    upload_2019-9-2_1-37-21.

    A sign for Rom Klao comes up
    upload_2019-9-2_1-37-45.

    Rom Klao is he site of a nasty battle between the Thai & the Laos over a small piece of land in 1987-88.
    1,000 soldiers lost their lives in this skirmish!

    The Thai–Laotian Border War (December 1987 – February 1988) was a short confrontation between Thai and Laotian forces. It involved a dispute over the map made by French surveyors in 1907 to mark the borders between Siam and French Indochina in the southern Luang Prabang Range. Ownership of the village of Ban Romklao on the border of Phitsanulok Province and three small border villages on the edge of Uttaradit Province was left unclear. This is the same map underlying the Cambodian–Thai border dispute. The agreed criterion for determining ownership was the natural watershed, but the French map makers at times ignored this.

    A series of minor shooting incidents had occurred between Thai and Laotian forces in 1984. In December 1987, however, Thai armed forces occupied the disputed village of Ban Romklao, raising the Thai flag over it. The government of the Lao People's Democratic Republic protested strongly, insisting the village was part of Botene District of Sainyabuli Province. Thailand replied that the village belonged to Chat Trakan District (amphoe) of Phitsanulok Province. Laotian Army forces staged a night attack on the small Thai garrison, driving the Thai soldiers from the village and replacing the Thai flag with that of the Lao PDR. Serious fighting followed, continuing for weeks until a cease-fire was declared on 19 February 1988.

    The brief war claimed a total of about 1,000 deaths, the Thais suffering more heavily since for much of the war they were attacking entrenched Laotian positions. Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was the commander of the Royal Thai Army at the time of the war and was criticized for engaging in it against the wishes of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Vietnam had assisted its socialist ally, sending troops from its 2nd Division to Baan Nakok air field in Sainyabuli to support the Laotian military operations, amidst the border clashes with Thailand along the Thai–Cambodian border​

    The Lao were firmly entrenched on their land, but a logging dispute with a Thai contractor started a small war with serious consequences. An interesting aspect of the deciding Romklao battle is that the Thai troops were ambushed & routed by a group of female Lao troops led by a famed female Captain Duangmala.

    Phu Soi Dao Waterfall
    upload_2019-9-2_2-34-26.

    Location: Google Maps

    R1268 is special & has featured on GTR before
    Dream Roads, Scenery, Olde Temples & Special Bikes

    A Walk In The Park.. Yeah Right......... Phu Soi Dao.

    90 kms north of Na Haeo, and up over the ridgeline into Uttaradit province there's a side road R4025 that goes out a small local border crossing Huai Phrao / Payapad.

    upload_2019-9-2_14-2-26.

    upload_2019-9-2_14-2-40.

    upload_2019-9-2_14-2-56.

    The road on the Laos side leads you to Muang Botene
    upload_2019-9-2_14-9-40.

    26 kms further on is Ban Khok, backwater central
    Cruising around town it doesn't look very inviting food & accommodation wise.
    It's a 7-11 snack food dinner at the local mini mart, except there was no 7-11 & the "hotel" is on the outskirts of town
    upload_2019-9-2_14-27-41.

    upload_2019-9-2_14-27-58.

    Basic but everything worked, however a lengthy power cut in the early evening was annoying for an hour or two.

    Should you be out there: Google Maps

    To be continued...closing on on the end, woo-hoo.
     
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  24. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Ban Khok - Nan..

    Departure time 7.50Am..a record early start for the old fellah

    Back on the road meandering along the border, with a masterplan to check out another remote Thai - Lao border crossing.
    upload_2019-9-3_13-33-32.

    The distance 173 kms with one side trip out to the Bobia local border crossing. The route numbers are R1268 - 1241 - 1123 - 1243.

    upload_2019-9-3_13-13-32.


    Just up the road 10 kms from Ban Khok is the turn off to the Phu Du international border crossing to / from Laos.

    To enter Laos at Phu Du please note that there is a no visa on arrival, you need a visa in advance, or if you lucky Swiss you can get a two week "visa free" entry on arrival. Exit is no problem & GTR gas exited here a couple of times.
    Should you want to know more about Phu Du, it features on GTR here

    A Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang loop via Uttaradit Nan - Hongsa

    Phu Du Crossing/Uttaradit into Xayabouly

    R13n - Hit By A 22-wheeler Chinese Truck

    Laos Border Crossings

    The Phu Du road junction is a little busier than Ban Khok with more food offerings = brekky time at the local noodle shop.
    upload_2019-9-3_14-45-5.

    Location: Google Maps

    The village name is Muang Chet Ton, & should you need accommodation out here sometime, try this place: Google Maps

    upload_2019-9-3_15-23-43.

    Heading north on R1241 there is an option to take he quick way into Na Noi via R1083 or the long way to Wiang Sa via R1243.

    upload_2019-9-3_15-24-43.

    From Muang Chet Ton the route # is 1241 & 27 kms up the road is the turn off or the Bobia local border crossing

    upload_2019-9-3_15-5-6.

    From Muang Chet Ton the road heads up into the mountains again & is one of the wildest, twisting, remote, isolated roads you can do.
    upload_2019-9-3_15-29-44.

    upload_2019-9-3_14-56-38.

    If you're riding out here alone, you are definitely alone. There is no traffic on this road. It is deserted. Break down and you're on your own.
    upload_2019-9-3_15-10-21.

    The Bobia local border crossing.
    upload_2019-9-3_15-36-20.

    upload_2019-9-3_15-31-42.

    From the turn off it is 7 kms out to the border, and if you're not there on market day, well there's not a lot going on.
    upload_2019-9-3_15-36-55.

    upload_2019-9-3_15-31-58.

    No smuggling wildlife or products made from endangered species at the border please
    upload_2019-9-3_15-41-45.

    From Boibia, back on the "main road" it soars up into the mountains & drops down onto the Nam Wa River, before heading west to Wiang Sa.

    upload_2019-9-3_17-58-38.

    The road & scenery is fabulous. Remote. Deserted & beautiful forest.
    upload_2019-9-3_15-39-39.

    The Viewpoint Song Paen Din
    upload_2019-9-3_15-39-58.

    Location: Google Maps

    upload_2019-9-3_15-40-31.

    The road where you've come from
    upload_2019-9-3_15-41-2.

    A road to ride
    upload_2019-9-3_15-43-17.

    Confirmation of the route number
    upload_2019-9-3_15-43-45.

    Once on the lowlands the roads are better & you can pick up the pace.

    Hot Bread in Nan was my first stop for some food & a real brekky, despite the time. of 1PM
    upload_2019-9-3_17-59-5.

    A perfect Hot Bread Brekky
    upload_2019-9-3_19-7-49.

    The Hot Bread Location: Google Maps

    Nan Restaurants

    The cheap charlie Grand Mansion hotel was my place of stay & wow have they done a nice renovation, with a price increase.
    upload_2019-9-3_19-8-22.
    big spacious rooms
    upload_2019-9-3_19-8-58.

    Location: Google Maps

    Nan Accommodation

    Dinner was a relaxing evening beside the Nan River @ the Sanian
    upload_2019-9-3_19-12-54.

    The Sanian has a reputation for the best Thai food in Nan
    upload_2019-9-3_19-13-25.

    The Location: Google Maps

    Nan Restaurants

    Refreshments and some nice tunes were at Chai Cheu Pub
    upload_2019-9-3_19-28-49.

    The atmosphere is not & relaxed, layed back with good service, & nice music
    upload_2019-9-3_19-29-36.

    upload_2019-9-3_19-29-47.

    The Location: Google Maps
     

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  25. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    What an excellent voyage, David! Thank you for the running story and pic's.
     

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