Recently, we had a weekend where Pae was off of work and I was off of school as well. It was our semester break so teachers got a week off. We had thoughts to go to Ubon, where the rest of the family lives, but P'Neung had just gotten a new job in another province and the immediate family decided to drive up to the Loei province to see him and his wife. From Ubon and from Bangkok, it was roughly the same distance and Pae and I would drive north with BunBun while the Ubon family (Mom, Dad, P'Nut and his gf P'Ing) would drive northwest and meet in a riverside town called Chiang Kan.
Chiang Kan sits right on the Mekong River. Growing up I always heard the name of this river from the Vietnam War as Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are all right here squished up together. Cool fact about the Mekong River is that it originates in Tibet and runs through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam Funny thing, a language thing, is that here they call is the Kong River or "Maenam Kong", maenam meaning "river".
There was a tropical storm floating its way from Vietnam to Thailand this week, so the entire drive up was in pouring rain. Add in the tiny single lane roads and normal traffic and a different kind of driving than back home, and it was quite an experience. BunBun was fine the whole way in his cage, buckled in safely in the back seat. He was funny though because he ended up sitting most of the way in his food bowl, I think because it gave him some stability with stop and go and the swerving and such of driving. It took us more than 10 hours to get there. Probably would normally take 7 hours, but the rain was heavy plus we had to stop every 200 kilometers for gas.
Our car uses compressed natural gas or CNG. We call it NGV here. There are very few NGV stations in Bangkok, much less in the outer provinces. So whenever we saw one on the map, we made a point to fill our tank. A tank of regular fuel, which our car can run on also, would cost us about 2,000 Thai Baht (about $60 US). We probably would have used almost two tanks to get up north. On the other hand, a tank of about 13 kilograms of NGV costs us only 120 Thai Baht ($4 US), and even though we had to take a lot of time out of our trip to wait in long gas lines and fill up more often, I'll take $20 over $120 one way any day!!
P'Neung and his wife opened a little noodle shop in the touristy area of Chiang Kan. We ate there every day we were able to. Very tasty. I was able to continue my marathon training while up visiting family, although I made it out only twice in one day, both runs in the rain. I enjoyed running in a different place, running some hills along the main road and running along the boardwalk that looks over the Mekong River into Laos. Great running weekend actually.
The first night we got there, while waiting for the rest of the family, Pae and I took a little walk along the Chiang Kan Walking Street. Walking streets are where you can go and shop at small shops, eat street food and do so with few to no cars speeding by. Mostly bicycles on walking street in Chiang Kan. We were lucky that the Ook Pansa day was being celebrated on this particular weekend, so there was a little fair with a ferris wheel and tiny roller coasters for kids. We weren't sure if we would be allowed to get on the tiny ferris wheel, but we asked and they didn't refuse our money ;) It was fun going round and round, something I hadn't done in probably 30 years!
We also stopped at a little booth where kids can paint clay or ceramic figures. I got a pig and Pae got three puppies. We sat and started painting, and not three minutes into our artsy fun, the sky opened up. Suddenly, the lady who filled our water paints was gone and we were left sitting there in the rain. I held an umbrella while Pae finished her yellow puppy, green puppy and heart-spotted puppy! We still have to go buy some water colors so we can finish our masterpieces, but it was fun! Felt like we were out on a date :)
We went with the family one day to a place called ?????, which is a little rocky mountainy area that once was an ocean or sea millions of years ago. It was a fun hike once we got through all of the water on a tractor. Our tractor got stuck in the mud, of course, so P'Nut and I had to stand on the front to put more weight on the pulling wheels. It was a fun and bumpy ride!
Before this though, we had to start our day out at the DMV in Loei as my Thai driver's license was set to expire before we headed home. I would have hated for Pae to have to drive all that way, so we went to the closest DMV office early in the morning and sat around and waited and photo copied and photo copied some more and waited some more for them to fix their license laminating and holograming machine. Finally, I was legally licensed again!
That same day we went to Phu Reua and walked in the clouds. The fog was so thick that day that we were treated to quite the atmosphere up there. We took a lot of pictures, walked around together and then headed to the next place. One funny picture that P'Nut took was of the family atop Phu Reua.
I was goofing off and was gonna stand on a small step when he took the picture but lost my balance (picture below)and almost went face first into the moist, grassy deck! Luckily I landed on my feet and saved myself the shame of looking like a fool!! The fog started to clear up as we left Phu Reua, but it was still nice and actually relatively cool. Based on the stats given at the park, it is about 1,300 meters above sea level.
All in all it was a good week with the family. Pae and I had fun hanging out together with family and BunBun had fun trying to hide from the Guesthouse owners. We had to sneak him in and out of every place we stayed ;)
Here are some pictures of our time with family in Chiang Kan. The best ones are the ones where all of us are in the photo. All mom and dad's kids, the spouses and girlfriend, and of course mom and dad!
It was a nice trip, bun didn't complain too much about the travel and the different surroundings once he was stuck in his little hotel room for a few days.
This trip reminded me that I need to get out and travel around Thailand a little more in the future. Already I'm planning to run races in Ayutthaya in December (Ayutthaya Marathon), Pattaya in January (Columbia Trail Masters 25K), Khao Yai in February (The North Face 100 Thailand) and I think there's a marathon in Chombueng in January that I always wanted to run because all runners say it's one of the prettiest marathon routes in Thailand. It can't be any worse than the Bangkok Marathon route which takes runners on a scenic tour of the...elevated expressway...for 36 of the 42 kilometers!.