Thursday, 2 November 2017

LTF MR2 - Day 7 : Chiang Khan

With Chiang Khan Cycling Club
Rolling out
With Rojana
Traditional house
Beautiful landsacpes
Resort and cafe with lambs on the left
Paddy fields
Women power
Approaching Khaeng Khut Khu
Back at Chai Kong for tea
Braised pork and egg lunch
With Fone's grandmother!
Wantan mee and banana fritters break!
On the way to visit Willie, Chai Kong
Pasar malam feel, Chai Kong
Street artists, Chai Kong
Tourist trap, Road 211.
With Willie and husband at their resort
With Willie in their resort
Truck ride back to Chai Kong
Stopover at Fair Fair Resort

Meeting downstairs for our breakfasts this morning, we had a good laugh at our own stupidity! The complimentary breakfast that comes with the room rates is actually catered from the shop opposite the hotel! Another round of Khao Tum for today...............................and tomorrow as well!!! The only saving grace was the alternative option of egg omelette, cooked and served over a small little wok!

Thankfully, with Chief Food Officer in the house, we do not have to resign ourselves totally to the hotel spread. Taking his job seriously, he returned with fried Yu Tiau and rice cakes filled with sweet corn for all to share!

As we were finishing breakfast, Fone dropped by at the hotel to guide us to the meet up place. In tow was her little girl who couldn’t take her eyes off Carolen’s blonde looks!

Arriving at the river promenade later, we received a warm welcome from Chiang Khan Cycling Club. All dressed in Airasia sponsored jersey, the group’s demographics comprised mainly of women past their forties. Only Man and Fone stood out as Millennials. It was not surprising as we were previously informed that most of their Gen Y members had gone for an MTB jamboree the very same day!

A short fun ride pre-decided since yesterday, we rode to the fringes of Phu Tok, a mountain in the hilly region of Isaan. Famous for its breathtaking sunrise with mist covered valleys, we never made it to the viewpoint as it was scorching hot by the time we got there. 

Instead, we made our way to Khaeng Khut Ku, passing by lotus ponds and stopping for cows along the way! Unfortunately, we were not there at the right season. August being a rainy month, the river was engorged covering all rocks and inlets! We did not get to view the famous rapids or colourful boulders at all!

Following a Buddhist practice, we traipsed down to the riverbank with some riders. A merit for life, they bought plastic bags of fishes from the neighbouring stalls to release them into the river. This idea of giving freedom to a creature is debatable as how the fishes got into bag in the first place is questionable!

Meanwhile, up on the river promenade, a crowd had started to gather. We soon found out the Mayor, was visiting. It was so heartwarming when he requested to take a group photo with us.

After a long photo session, Man had to leave us as he had some work to attend to. Saying their goodbyes as well were the postmaster and chief of police.

On our way out from Khaeng Khut Khu, we stopped by a cottage industry producing fried chips and preserved coconut flesh. The coconut water which are usually sold cheap to toddy makers were given to us for free with extras to fill up our water bottles.

By the time we got back to the beautiful river promenade, the rest of the Thai riders had dispersed except for Wilasinee and Koy who continued to host us till lunch time. Deciding on a cafe by the riverside, we finally caught up with The Roscoes who had been in hiding since yesterday’s lunch. They were on their way back after a late breakfast as Pete was still harboring a fever from last night!

Getting to know our new Thai friends better, we found out Wilasinee was a former English teacher trained in Maine, USA. Now retired, she owns and manage a resort in Chiang Khan. Meanwhile, Koy is an independent artist with a studio in Phuket. Currently on a long sabbatical, she is putting her energy on triathlons!

After our last 2 friend’s left us, we returned to our hotel for showers before hitting the street again for lunch. This time, we tried braised pork and eggs with rice. Not satisfied, we turned into the main road for Thai’s version of fried Kueh Tiau and later, wantan noodles. When CFO went off and returned with banana fritters and spring rolls, more than half of it had to be given away to our wantan seller and their next door’s motorcycle workshop owner who had played translator for us!

That afternoon, while most of us returned to our rooms for a siesta, Alvin and KC went to the local bus station to make enquiries for bus services to Loei. This was a back up plan for those who are unable to ride any further.

When they were done, the curious few met again to visit Wilasinee as promised. Hitting the streets after she did not pick up our calls, we bumped into Koy who was finishing an early dinner. She decided to walk us to Willie’s resort which was actually so much further than initially described, “turn left at Soi 5”.

The resort, far from Chai Kong and buried in a housing estate with just as many resort homes, it is not an easy find. The signboard written only in Thai, is a strategy to escape tourism tax but it also means escaping the attention of foreigners as well! The standard budget rooms with bare minimums, sleeps a family of four comfortably. But it is the lovely patios and landscaped gardens that you will spend most of your waking hours!

Excusing ourselves as we were late for a dinner appointment with the rest of the team, Willie was most considerate, offering to take us back on her pick up truck. She even brought out screwpine mats for those occupying the cargo area. It was totally unnecessary as we were just happy to be given a lift! 

On our way back, we dropped by at Fair Fair resort, located on Road 211. Belonging to Willie’s son, the resort’s entrance houses a veterinary clinic run by her daughter in law!!!

That night, Koy brought us to the best Thai restaurant in Chai Kong. Delicious and reasonably priced, we ate to our hearts content. Meanwhile, Pete who was still not ready for spicy food was given a bowl of Khao Tum. This went into the toilet midway through dinner!!!

After dinner, we went our separate ways. Some indulged in more street food while others continued with more Thai massages.

As usual, those who returned late found themselves locked out again. Instead of waiting for Claudine to the rescue, Uncle KC found a new way to break in! Sliding his craggy hands through the gaps of the folding sliding doors, he managed to lift up the latch!!!

Photo Credits :

1. KC
2. Ped Al

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

LTF MR2 - Day 6 : Hansel and Gretel

With Mike and Ben at their resort
Breakfast at Mekong Riverside Resort and Camping
The geckos at the resort...
...alarmed the men...
...and the women as well!!!
Wendy on her mission!
Twin propellers over our heads!
Remember Love Loei!!!
Lovely couple at Chiang Khan night market
Personal key chains for 690 Baht

Sunset at Chiang Khan
Sunset at Chiang Khan
River walk
River walk

When your stay is as beautiful as Mekong Riverside Resort and Camping, it makes it all the harder to leave. After a wonderful breakfast of Khao Tum and a fusion breakfast spread of eggs, toast and grilled bananas, we were quite reluctant to pack up and leave. Seeing the mood of the day, Alvin decided to give us more time to mooch around.

This morning's breakfast was accompanied with a generous fruit platter, a thoughtful gesture from Mike who had listened well to his guests. Flashback to last evening, after Claudine made enquiries about getting fruits from the nearby village, a generous spread of fruits were served as after dinner desserts!

Following an extended farewell which saw Ben handing out little gifts of Buddha amulets to bless our trip, we left the resort reluctantly. Rolling out from the long driveway, we turned right onto Highway 211.

Right across the road, diagonal to the resort is a crematorium. It was a real relief it was not put to use throughout our stay or we may never look at roasts the same way ever again!

Stretching from the resort to as far as Sweet Bites Cafe and beyond, the road was going through expansion works. While those of us with face buffs were glad of the sheer screen, those without were literally biting dusts! Protection or no protection, everyone could very well be digging gold nuggets from the open crevices of their bodies by day's end!

As planned, we stopped at Sweet Bites Cafe, 8 km down the road. We were pleasantly surprised their apple pie actually lived up to its reputation though the crust were a tad too thick.

As we were chiseling our way through the thick crusts, a text travelled 8 km on the airwaves to Alvin's homing device! Mike had found a Garmin in one of the rooms!!! Seeking the help of our friend from Sweet Bites, Wendy hopped on the the rear seat of her moped, much to George's "chagrin" for being denied close proximity with a pretty young lass!!!

The mission took longer than expected. Bored, VT sieved through the earrings for sale at Sweet Bites and found one for Carolen. Celia went through the tedious job of rearranging the vanity corner, messed up by the strings of customers that came through the doors.

Finally, Wendy returned with George's toy. We were relieved we did not have to pay for her ransom. But noon was approaching and riding on in the heat was a real mental challenge! Even the passing sceneries of paddy fields against a backdrop of rolling hills did little to motivate us.

Up on a hill, under the shades of the forest, a pagoda shaped bus stop or look out was too tempting not to stop. The place looked dirty and abandoned but yet the lazy lot of us sprawled on the seats, oblivious to the bird and lizard poo!

Hoping to catch up with The Roscoes who had skipped Sweet Bites, Alvin pushed us on with the promise of an interesting temple not faraway. Reluctantly, we followed his leadership, treading on in the heat.

As we approached, the huge temple and monastery grounds on the left was hard to miss. But the phallus shrine on the right was more eye catching than any tom, DICK or harry tourists around the area!!! Such phallic symbols can only denote fertility and not a mean to reverse male erectile dysfunctions!!!

While some fell onto the tiled floor to seek refuge and to rest their tired bodies, none went down on their knees to offer fervent prayers. We have all been blessed with offsprings of our own.

Leaving the twin propellers, we had gone not more than 200 m when we bumped into The Roscoes at a mini market. They had just finished their ice creams and were getting ready to roll out when we arrived. Again, we had to let them go as we did at Sweet Bites as everyone were spoilt for ice creams as well!

Treading on, we lost touch with reality. We had been feeding on snacks and sweets the whole day, we felt like little Hansels and Gretels. Closing in on Chiang Khan, we were again munching on local junk food of crisps and preserved coconut flesh from a stall near to Khaeng Khut Khu.

The stall owner could tell we were exhausted as we had all collapsed on her floor. Taking pity on us, she offered us cold water from an eski container.

Conditioned to Perth's winter, the tropical heat was just too much for Carolen. She took her second shower for the day!!!

Finally, we arrived at Remember Loei Love, our stay for the next 2 nights. Located right at the old street where the night market is located, we were in for more junk food! Throwing our bags down, we immediately regrouped for a substandard "after lunch hour" Thai lunch.

Meeting again an hour later, stalls were beginning to occupy the streets, in anticipation of the night market. We tried the prawn crackers sold on the streets which received popular reviews on TripAdvisor. The size of dinner plates, the tiny river shrimps are fried in crispy but hard batter that will scratch the roof of your mouth!!! Served with a Thai chili sauce dip, they should go very well with beer!

Chilling at the hotel lobby with Thai fish cakes and iced cappuccinos later, Celia was feeling anything but chill! The air conditioning in her room broke down while she was taking a nap!

After the chaos, Fone (Suthasinee) and Man dropped by to meet us. They were members of Chiang Khan Cycling Club to which our friend, Ugrid had helped us get in touch with! Their thoughtful gestures made us feel so welcomed!

That night, we finally had the real Khao Tum we had been pining for since the start of the trip! Right across from our hotel was this shop that serves fantastically smooth rice congee with minced pork. Sue though had to settle for second best....her menu was a single choice of eggs!

We continued the evening, stretching our waistlines with soya milk in ginger syrup, assorted meat in skewers and betel leaf wrap. Now, if VT was Hansel, he would have been the first to go into the witch's pot! Not quite satisfied, he continued on with Pad Thai while the rest went on a fervent mission to save the Thai economy!!!

Photo Credits :
1. KC
2. Ped Al


Remember Love Loei Hotel