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Off the beaten track Thailand

Chiang Mai to Mukdahan Overland

A few photos from a recent, off the beaten track, Chiang Mai to Mukdahan overland trip across northern Thailand to Loei Province then hugging the scenic banks of the Mekong to Nongkhai and Udon Thani from where we headed east to rejoin the River at the Mukdahan border crossing with Laos.

Logistically such trips to remoter parts, not usually frequented by foreign visitors, can be difficult to organise; arranging new transport and accommodation contacts, finding new restaurants, and even getting lost on one or two occasions but it was certainly very rewarding to re-visit some of these destinations we hadn’t been to in a long, long time and also to discover some completely new ones.

Rolling hills and forests or Uttaradit Province
Rolling hills and forests of Uttaradit Province

Considering neither guide, tour leader nor driver were familiar with some of these out of the way spots all seemed to go remarkably smoothly and a great fun and easy-going group helped enormously! Our journey began in a more classic manner with visits to Lampang’s famous Elephant Hospital and Thung Kwiang Market before leaving the main highway and heading into the scenic hills of Loei Province.

The famous Elephant Hospital at Lampang
The famous Elephant Hospital at Lampang

 

Some North Thai specialities on the way
Some North Thai specialities on the way at Thung Kwiang Market

Loei is certainly one of Thailand’s remoter provinces and indeed the name itself – which translates as ‘further’ – is a local joke since obviously if you’re always going further then you never actually get there. It is however certainly one of the country’s most picturesque provinces and deserves more visitors to its lush forests, scenic hills and quiet villages. After an unusual lunch on a floating raft in the middle of Huay Krating Lake we headed, via the provincial capital with its lively night market, to the old Mekong side town of Chiang Khan famous for its traditional old wooden houses and beautiful riverside setting.

 Abandoned with fried fish and grilled chicken in the middle of the lake
Abandoned with fried fish and grilled chicken in the middle of the lake

 

Loei night market
Loei night market

 

Boat on the Mekong at Chiang Khan
Boat on the Mekong at Chiang Khan

From Chiang Khan the road winds along the banks of the Mekong to Nongkhai Town where our next stop was the unusual Wat Sala Kaeo Ku. Kind of a ‘Buddha Park’, (the architect was also responsible for creating the one across the river in Vientiane), it’s an eclectic collection of Buddhist, Hindu and even Christian imagery; indeed way too eclectic since the architect/monk/creator was expelled from the Buddhist church for being way too non-conformist. Might prove a bit shocking for strict Buddhists but is definitely a great spot to wander for foreign visitors.

Chiang Mai to Mukdahan Overland
Wat Sala Kaeo Ku or Wat Khaek, Nongkhai

After an overnight in lively Udon Thani Town, we headed to what is probably Thailand’s least known and least visited UNESCO site Ban Chiang.  It is admittedly of more interest to archaeologists than casual visitors but the museum is well laid out and provides an interesting look into the bronze age culture in northeastern Thailand. Our group also seemed to enjoy the proliferation of handicraft and coffee shops out front of the museum too!

 Chiang Mai to Mukdahan Overland
Banana vendor at Ban Chiang, (probably more photogenic than the exhibits!)

Last sightseeing stop on our odyssey was the famous, though very out of the way, That Phanom. A highly prestigious stupa and temple on the banks of the Mekong overlooking Laos in Nakhon Phanom Province. Again, though the temple was spectacular, it was the local people we found at least as interesting as the site itself.

Chiang Mai to Mukdahan Overland
Worshippers at That Phanom

We left our group at the Friendship Bridge 2, spanning the Mekong between Thailand’s Mukdahan Town and Laos’s Savannakhet, from where they headed off into Laos en route for Vietnam. We returned to Bangkok en route to Phnom Penh where we’d meet them a week later and so ended our Chiang Mai to Mukdahan overland odyssey.  Great trip and hope our fellow travellers enjoyed it as much as we did!