Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where to go and the joy of public transport

The one thing about returning to the same country again and again is that I have seen a lot of the places that I want to see so it is always hard to decide where to go. I still have places in Thailand that I have not seen and would like to and some places that for some reason I do not want to visit at all. Since I was in Isan (the name given to the large area in the Northeastern part of Thailand) I decided we should make our way to Ubon Ratchathani. The guide book seemed to make it sounds like there were a few things in the city worth seeing and a couple of national parks a few hours away that I could visit without a tour.

The first step was to leave Lahan Si. This sounds rather simple but the way to do this is just stand on the side of the road and wait for a bus. The first bus that went by either did not see us or was full but for whatever the reason it did not stop. We ended up waiting along the side of the road for about 2 hours before catching a bus. This is the disadvantage of using public transport. This is Na waiting for the bus taking advantage of all the shade this tree can provide.

My plan was to go to Surin and spend the night and then move on from there. This plan changed after a 2 hour wait in the sun and setting on the motor of a packed bus, 20 kilometers seemed like enough travel for one day and on reaching Nong Rong we found a hotel for the night. We did a little bit of walking around Nong Rong to find an internet café and do a bit of shopping. We stopping in a shoe store because Na wanted a pair of shoes that were better for walking and I found the same sandals that I have been using for over 2 years and really like. Something as stupid as finding a pair of sandals costing 3 euros seemed to make a 2 hour wait for a bus in the hot sun of Thailand all worth it. Fate was smiling me on this day after all.

The following day our plan was to get up early and catch a bus to Buriram and then a VIP bus to Ubon Ratchathani. We had been told that there were VIP busses between Buriram and Ubon Ratchathani from the lady that was working on the bus from Lahan Si. When we made it to Buriram we found out that the VIP buses only ran at night. The only difference with the VIP buses from the normal ones is that there are not as many seats on the bus and it does not stop to pick up everyone standing on the side of the road so does not take as long to get between 2 places. It also cost a bit more.

I do not really like traveling at night so caught a normal bus to Surin and from Surin caught another bus on to Si Saket. In Si Saket we stayed in one of if not the worst hotel room that I have stayed at in Thailand but had a good dinner at the market by the train station. We had Sticky Rice, Papaya Salad (Som Tom), Onions & Loofah (Baub-Liam), Watermelon and Spicy Pork (Nam Tok Mo). If you were wondering yes Loofah is the same thing you use in the bath to scrub your back. What I ate here is from the same tree but not what you use in cleaning. I ate the part you use for cleaning later in the trip and much preferred it over this part of the tree.

The following morning we caught a train for the short and enjoyable ride onto Ubon Ratchathani. It took me part of 3 days to go from Lahan Si to Ubon Ratchathai which google maps list as about 200 miles. Travelers often say that it is not the destination that counts but the journey and I feel at times I really test this saying.

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