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  1. #1
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    A daytrip from Ubon Ratchathani

    We're heading east from Ubon, towards the Mekhong and Laos. A fairly easy days drive, around 200km, roads are good all the way.

    First stop, Phibun Mangsahan.



    Phibun has got a pleasant location by the Mun River, and it has been a day trip destination for Ubonites for some time. The stalls sell various souvenir bric a brac, and items of clothing. We were accosted here by a group of students of the female variety, wanting their photo taken with us- happy to comply, of course.

    The Mun River enters some shallow rapids here-



    Theres always some locals doing a spot of fishing, more in dry season Mrs tells me-



    It's a pleasant spot to pull over, stretch the legs, browse the stalls for a few minutes, might even find a place for Lunch next time.



    Not today though, we're going further afield.
    probes Aliens

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    Little Pattaya

    Following the highway (route 217), you turn away from the Mun after Phibun and head towards the giant Sirinthon Dam. Apart from water, this also supplies hydro electricity to Ubon province. As you see the large lake for the first time, you notice two seperate areas like this, dubbed little Pattaya.



    There must be over a hundred of these wooden rafts by lakes edge. What a strange name for this place- it bears no resemblance to Sin City. Apparently it got this name because student parties like to come here and party on the rafts. No doubt debauchery ensues- Ubon has quite a sizable student population.



    I suppose the beach might also be a comparison to Pattaya. You can paddle away, or fish to your hearts content.



    It seems a shame not to sit down for a while and enjoy a beverage. nice cooling breeze off the Lake too.



    Here comes a damsel with our order. Beer for the men, sangsom coke & soda the ladies.



    Of course they sell food too. Hard to imagine this place, or it's nearby clone, ever getting busy- but apparently on Songkhran or graduation it can party hearty, with competing karaoke machines shattering the tranquility of the lake.

  3. #3
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    It's just a few minutes down the road when you notice the somewhat auspicious looking entrance to the Sirinthon Dam- Boomgates, guarded by military. But visitors are welcomed. In fact within this complex is a resort, golf course, driving range and- tucked away somewhere private- a favoured retreat of HRH Princess Sirinthorn. As you would expect of somewhere with royal patronage, it's all nicely manicured. As I've come to expect in rural Thailand, it's also basically empty except for a few golfers.





    We stopped and had a coffee at a fair sized lakeside restaurant there, surprisingly cheap. Noticed an ATM also of all things, and mobile phone reception here was perfect. Oh to be Royal.



    About three and a half years previously, we had visited the Chong Mek border markets. The border markets were located in the zone between the Thai and Laos immigration posts, and were a good place to stock up on cheap Laos stuff like booze, fags, small furry creatures, jungle veggies and so on. The all new Thai immigration post-



    They were good, which is why no doubt the Thai immigration folk decided to stop everyones fun. Now you need to pay a fee to get through Thai side immigration- even though you are not entering Laos. For falang, it is 1000 bht- not sure about Thai. Anyway, it's all but killed the old border market. Naturally, we didn't bother.

    On the Thai side, you've got this fairly boring market though.



    Complete with fake Rambo stuff.



    Personally, I was anxious to get on to the Mekhong- basically a wasted detour thanks to greedy Thai immigration. Maybe it will regain it's former glory one day. I couldn't help remembering those small furry animals Mrs sabang bought for the folks back in the village to consume- apparently they are rare now on the Thai side, and favoured eating. They were put in a plastic bag, with small needle pricks for ventilation. Poor things had all but expired when we got them back to the village.

    Incidentally there is a bus service from Ubon to the town of Pakse in Laos (about 40km from Chong Mek border), 190 bht last thing I knew. It is quite popular with travellers.

    Last edited by sabang; 31-07-2008 at 12:41 AM.

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    So, tomorrow (TD time) we are going to head to Khong Chiam, where the Mun River meets the Mekhong, and eat some lunch on the river.

    I reckon I'll also tack some photos from my gallery of a couple of venues in Ubon on too (I've been wondering what to do with them) as a theoretical end to the day trip.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    So, tomorrow (TD time) we are going to head to Khong Chiam, where the Mun River meets the Mekhong, and eat some lunch on the river.

    I reckon I'll also tack some photos from my gallery of a couple of venues in Ubon on too (I've been wondering what to do with them) as a theoretical end to the day trip.

    Thanks for the report Khun Sabang.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang
    We were accosted here by a group of students of the female variety, wanting their photo taken with us- happy to comply, of course.
    But too mean to show it on here, Mun Sabang!

  7. #7
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    ^ We did get a shot actually, but it was on my Mums bladdy camera! Honestly.

  8. #8
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    ^ Can your Mum be kind enough to post the pic?

  9. #9
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    Kong Chiam

    The Mun River meets the Mekhong at Khong Jiam and, at various times of year you get a visible 'two coloured river' effect for a few km's, before the rivers fully merge. I had noticed this on my last visit, but it was not really noticable today.



    Never mind, the town itself is laid back, quite pleasant and there is even a small travellers scene here, and a couple of more swanky resorts around the edge of town. I do mean small, Pattaya or Phuket this is not, but you might well see a few more farangs here on your visit, which is noteworthy in untouristy Ubon.

    Mainly, the city of Ubon itself acts as a one night stop off for travellers heading on to southern Laos, apart from which you've got the Preah Vihar temple complex in the south of the Province which attracts some intrepid tourists- Vihar is on the Cambodian side, but mainly accessed from the Thai side. It is, of course, the subject of much sabre rattling between the respective nations at the moment and I believe access from the Thai side is currently closed.



    Ubon will never get the foreign tourist numbers of 'beachy' Thailand, Bangkok or the far North, neither Kanchanaburi. The reason is it's relative innacessibility, perched at the south eastern edge of the vast Isaan region and 630 km from Bangkok. However, numbers will definitely increase.

    Firstly, The 'Emerald Triangle' is unique in that it borders both Laos and Cambodia. There is one border crossing to Laos at Chong Mek, none to Cambodia- but this will change in due course. Secondly, the Province of Ubon offers a microcosm of the Isaan region, more than any other single province I can think of. There are the large waterways of the Mekhong and Mun Rivers, and various tributaries- Ubon is threaded with rivers actually. There are the inevitable rice paddies of course- and due to it's many rivers, the Province is greener and more fertile than much of northern Isan, indeed one of the more prosperous provinces of Isaan. Plenty of forest cover left too. There is even some mountain scenery, mostly in the Cambodian border region. For history buffs the Vihar temple complex, also Pha Taem National Park with it's ancient rock paintings.

    Ubon City itself is worth a look see, with the Mun River flowing by and various tributaries, a laid back feel- it is quite the most pleasant of the Isan cities (Korat, Khon Kaen, Udon & Ubon) but you see less western faces here- albeit the number is growing exponentially. Anyway, I'm not here to do the TAT's job for them- apart from naming it the 'Emerald triangle', they've done nothing to promote the place.

    We're looking across the Mekhong to Laos now-






    Pha Taem NP is about 25km north of Khong Chiam, I'll definitely check this place out-

    "Located about 25km north of Khong Chiam is Pha Taem National Park where brilliant cliff side views of Laos can be had. About a 500m walk to the base of the cliffs are some prehistoric cave paintings which are over 3,000 years old.
    The park is also home to a series of unusual stone formations and a selection of waterfalls, although you will need your own transport to reach them."

    Pha Taem National Park travel guide for backpackers. Includes hotel and hostel reviews

    Khong Jiam is certainly a nice place to have lunch...

  10. #10
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    There are two floating barge restaurants at KJ, and a couple more by the riverside. This was todays choice-



    Definitely on the menu were these Mekhong shrimp- they get to be quite big, 18" and above. They are also very reasonably priced, thanks to an ample supply of cash starved Laos fisherman- who paddle up to the barges and sell their wares direct.







    The whole meal, including booze, prolly cost about the price of one 'Phuket lobster' less than the size of this river prawn (we had five). Amazing thing, tourism.



    You can take a trip along the river too-



    PM Samak gave this other riverside restaurant some fame, by hosting one of his cooking shows there, and giving the place a big endorsement. Strangely, we ignored it-






    Well satisfied with a good meal, we headed back to Ubon, which is a comfy 75km- no need to retrace your steps, Route 2222 cuts out Sirithorn reservoir and several km's, bringing you out direct to Phibun Mangsahan. The energetic traveller could easily incorporate Pha Taem on this daily itinerary, but our plan is to overnight in Khong Chiam and save this for a future visit- thus take our time about it.
    Last edited by sabang; 31-07-2008 at 11:56 AM.

  11. #11
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    Ubon Ratchathani

    To finish off the day, we decided to call in to Ubon Ratchathani. Early July is the beginning of Khao Pansa (Buddhist Lent), and Ubon celebrates this with it's famous Candle Festival- which was happening the following weekend. The large crowds of this event do not put it high on my 'To Do' list, but Mrs sabang said we could go and see some of the more elaborate Candles (or, as we call them, Floats) in Wat Thung Sri Muang Park, which is kind of the Central Park of Ubon city. H'mmm.



    Well, this was basically the centrepiece Candle from the year before, and nice enough it is too. There were two smaller floats adorning the corners of the Park, and that was it. Mrs must have got her wires crossed, anyway TIT. But I'd like to put in a plug for this Park- what a hive of activity! There were people playing soccer on a small court, people jogging, people doing excercise circuits thoughtfully put there by the municipality, people doing aerobics classes, people just hanging around, others walking dogs. It is nice to see a park that is both Nice, but also used and appreciated by it's people. You could spend some quality time there people watching and excercising- hey, you are not even allowed to smoke within the Park boundaries, but this smoker isn't complaining.

    We only spent a few minutes here- I wish I had taken more 'people' photoes really, but I was getting low on battery. And Khun Louis "N-Joy pub" was nearby, and beckoning. One of two dedicated farang pubs that I know of in Ubon, N'Joy is habited by Louis- an affable Aussie, Vietnam Vet also- and of course the Boss is his wife, Joy.



    N-Joy is located on Palochai Rd, which is also where the Ubon Jail and Toh Sang Hotel is located- one of Ubons nicer hotels. The Toh Sang Resort at Khong Chiam is the local upmarket resort too. It is centrally located, but parking is easy enough- it's just that bit outside the main commercial area. Decent place for a beer.







    This chaps a regular-



    Outside N-Joy. You wouldn't really think you are in a City-



    There is said to be around 7-800 farangs living around Ubon now, but they are spread out. A new face is noticeable of course, and you'll always find conversation here. The local expats are friendly, and relatively normal compared to Pattaya (and allegedly, Udon Thani).

    The original expat pub in Ubon is the Wrong Way Cafe- also known for it's good falang food, this place is run by an American guy called Richard and wife. I've never been there- it's opening hours are a wee bit flexible, closed on Sundays plus liable to open late afternoon early in the week. They have a decent web site too- one thing I note about the Ubon expat community is that they all seem to like the place:-

    Wrong Way Cafe

    Or Love it:-

    Life and Times in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.

    Smile Restaurant is a nice, locally oriented resturant- I guess it is where the local glitterati like to see and be seen. We went there on a recommendation from Louis (a few months before)- you just proceed back into the downtown area for about 1km, turn right at the first traffic lights, keep going just over .5km to the next lights, and it's maybe 100m past them on the left.







    We enjoyed our meal here, and it has a good, imaginative menu. A band plays in the evening too- definitely one to go back to.



    So hopefully I've left you with a few things to do should you find yourself in Ubon Ratchathani.

  12. #12
    Mmmm, Bowling...... mobs00's Avatar
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    ^ Nice read. I was there last year and couldn't wait to get back into Thailand after being in Laos for 2 weeks.

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    very nice pics and report.

    i went on almost identical tour a couple of years back with the my thai 'friend' (who used to work as a cashier in a Pattaya bar) and her parents.

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    Great read Sabang, thanks for putting it together.
    Many Years since I have been that out way, I don't believe I saw a Westerner at all, 15 yrs ago.
    Can't believe the size of those prawns, whoppers

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    Quote Originally Posted by peterpan
    Can't believe the size of those prawns, whoppers
    They are indeed- I'm not sure if they are just a local species, or if they have been fished out furher upriver- but you just don't see them this size in Mukdahan or Nong Khai. The first visit I paid to Khong Chiam was about 3.5 years ago- same restaurant actually, and as luck would have it a fisherman paddled alongside with his catch- which was three phenomonally big river prawns! I kid you not- the largest was safely two foot long. I've never seen a freshwater crustacean that big- naturally, we had to have them.

    The biggest they had this time was 18 inches- whether thats a seasonal thing, luck of the draw, or an indicator that they are being overfished I don't know- but I suspect the latter.

    Get 'em while they're hot I say- the biggest ones are 600 bht per kilo live from the holding nets (can't complain at that) the smallies a good deal cheaper.

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    Thanks for the great pictorial and read Sabang

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    great stuff sb, cool pics, ill have to head out ubon way sometime, never been

  18. #18
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    Great stuff Sabang.

    Have any TD readers played golf at the Sirinthon Dam?

    Looks like a really good day trip, can't wait to try it.

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    Theres a golf course and a driving range there MM. Probably mainly used by the military. These places are usually quite cheap too.

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    Yep once I can walk again and I find a friend and buy/rent a car I will be there with bells on!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by sabang View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by peterpan
    Can't believe the size of those prawns, whoppers
    They are indeed- I'm not sure if they are just a local species, or if they have been fished out furher upriver- but you just don't see them this size in Mukdahan or Nong Khai. The first visit I paid to Khong Chiam was about 3.5 years ago- same restaurant actually, and as luck would have it a fisherman paddled alongside with his catch- which was three phenomonally big river prawns! I kid you not- the largest was safely two foot long. I've never seen a freshwater crustacean that big- naturally, we had to have them.

    The biggest they had this time was 18 inches- whether thats a seasonal thing, luck of the draw, or an indicator that they are being overfished I don't know- but I suspect the latter.

    Get 'em while they're hot I say- the biggest ones are 600 bht per kilo live from the holding nets (can't complain at that) the smallies a good deal cheaper.
    If they are the same species I think they are, they migrate down to the brackish estuaries to breed and put on a huge growth spurt when the water gets brackish.

    The up country farmers used to add salt to the ponds to simulate the migration and induce the growth spurt. But the salty water was leaching out into the water table and killing the trees plus stuffing up the ground for crops. So the practice is banned in Thailand now.

  22. #22
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    Another day trip

    January is a fine time to see the Mekhong, I believe. The weather is cooler, the sky is brighter- and the Rivers Mun and Mekhong are substantially lower, with many dry season islands that you won't see during the Wet. So off we set, with our friends up from Pattaya in tow.

    The River Mun at Phibun Mangsahan. Blue skies and algae made for quite a pleasant shot.






    Pleasant enough though it is, Phibun is a smoke break. It's got a smallish Tesco Lotus, the Ubon Immigration office (so well known to the local farangs), and a smallish market next to the river that has some mildly interesting Thai style T shirts- Che Guevara seems to be all the rage these days, and apart from that heaps of dried fishies of various types-





    The most direct way to get to Khong Jiam from Phibun is actually Route 2222, as opposed to the longer route which takes you via Lake Sirondhorn and the Chong Mek border crossing. The road is no great shakes though- pretty potholed in parts. Mrs sabang is to navigation what Hitler was to pacifism, but the wrong way she sent me down at least yielded a view of the Sirindhorn Dam itself (as opposed to the reservoir), so a couple of pics were in order. smallish hydro electric station there too, you can hear it humming away.





    So much for our 'shortcut' then, and onwards to Khong Jiam. The good news was we were able to follow the road through the Dam complex and out the other side- Boomgate at both ends- so we didn't have to double back on ourselves.
    Last edited by sabang; 27-01-2010 at 04:25 PM.

  23. #23
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    Khong Jiam

    Khong Jiam is where the Rivers Mun and Mekhong meet, it offers several nice riverscapes, and some decent riverside eating. Up the road is the Pha Taem national park- must get there one day. Early risers can see the first dawn in Thailand too-










    We sat down and had a nice enough meal on our usual floating barge restaurant. None of those absolute whopper Mekhong giant prawns available this time though- merely large ones this time, but certainly tasty. A bit of pleasant banter revealed the Waitresses are from Laos- where, it would seem, a 2000 bht per month salary is quite ample to make the daily river crossing worthwhile.

    I like Khong Jiam. It is picturesque, laid back, but with enough low key tourism to give a bit of added variety for a town of this size. There is even a low key 'karaoke' scene (nudge wink) here, featuring young ladies from Laos. A border town certainly has it's benefits- I could think of much worse places than here to live.

    Of course there is no border crossing in Khong Jiam. Officially. Turns out, as of January 2010 anyway, that is a downright benefit.

    Shall we visit Laos, the dodgy way??
    Last edited by sabang; 27-01-2010 at 04:58 PM.

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    A dodgy trip to Laos

    Three hundred baht is the rate for a private boat crossing, return. Or you can just hop on one of the regular ferries- you have to wait for them to fill up though, but much cheaper. There is a bustling human trade between the two sides- basically they come here to earn baht, we go over there to shop. My mate was very nervous about the whole thing, I mean thats very Illegal isn't it? But he can't help it- he's American, and this is Thailand. The rest of us certainly weren't, and our boat even came to the floating restaurant to pick us up.





    Our destination:-



    A bustling Laos river port-




    The name of the village is 'Sing SamPan'. I think that means one horse town.




    Customs and erm, immigration.

    Thai 10 bht, falang 100 bht. Hey, thats a lot cheaper than a Thai re-entry visa (1900 bht), and whatever a Laos visa costs these days. And Duty free limits are not part of the lingo.


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    Looking back to Thailand, you are directly opposite the mouth of the Mun, as it meets the Mekhong.



    But really, it is a dusty one horse town. Kind of the ass end of nowhere. It has a school-



    And a dusty market-





    Booze and cigs are probably the main sellers here, but there are fabrics, Chinese electric gizmo's, fake brand name stuff (including Ipods) too. Clothes, shoes, luggage, DVD's, even some porn. Dark beer Lao too- yum.

    We enjoyed it, but you really only need about 90 minutes there and you've seen and shopped the place. Might just stay a bit longer and have a drink with the locals though, next time.



    This place was advertised for rent- but I think you might be tempting fate a bit to overnight here.






    If nothing else, it's damn cheap shopping. But it's also fun to go to Laos the dodgy way. I do like porous borders.
    Last edited by Marmite the Dog; 28-01-2010 at 07:18 AM. Reason: fixed the lickle photos

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