Friday, December 30, 2016

Cycling Isan Thailand - Laos 2016 : Day 5 - Chiang Khan to Pak Chom

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Cycling Isan Thailand - Laos 2016 : Day 5 - Chiang Khan to Pak Chom
Tour of Isan Thailand & Laos : Day 5, 6th December 2016

This is page 5 of a 11-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4- Chiang Khan        |     Go to Other Days     |       Go to D6- Sangkhom >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions & Ride Conditions
Thailand is right-hand drive so ride on the left side of the road. Except for some stretches with gradual slopes, the route is relatively flat.
- The route was relatively flat with temperature averaging  Early morning temperature can be quite cold at around 18ºC.

2. Communicating with Locals
    For the uninitiated cycling in foreign lands can be a daunting experience, especially when one can only speak a smattering of the local language or if there is no common language to speak to each other (like English). Most Thai can hardly speak English, and learning some basic phrases will be helpful.
    This could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    And do install memory-resident translation apps into your mobile phone.
In Thailand, doctors and pharmacists speak relatively good English. Seek out clinics or pharmacies for help when necessary. A friend who regular tours the country even carried flash cards of crucial personal and medical details printed in Thai, basic daily terms, etc.

3. Staying in Connected
    When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost or just to share photos and moments. Other than wifi provided by hotels, home-stays and restaurants, getting pre-paid card is a good option.
We arrived at the Don Muang International Airport and bought pre-paid SIM cards from a TrueMove Mobile stall located at the arrival hall. High speed 4G packages with 1.5GB data for can be obtained for THB350; beyond usage of 1.5GB it still works but at a slower speed. Click here to view other TrueMove pre-paid sim packages. If not familiar, get a staff to set up your phone for their system for it to work properly.

4. Places of Interest
- Early morning giving alms (performing Dharma) to Buddhist monks at Chai Khong Road in Chiang Khan.
- Temple/crematorium (GPS: 17.99508, 101.75092) near Wat Si Chomchuen.
Phajoamnang Temple (GPS:18.0553, 101.77574 ) and the monks' quarters on the hill slopes opposite.
Wat Tha Samran (GPS: 18.04136, 101.85624) with it's adjacent kindergarten and also a view of the Ban Khok Pai Mekong River ferry crossing to Laos.
Pak Chom Food Market (GPS: 18.02386, 101.88502).
- The Nam Chom Riverside walkway (GPS: 18.02501, 101.888) with views of the Mekong. This walkway connects most of the riverside hotels/motels to the Pak Chom Food Market.

5. Currency Exhcange
For better exchange rates, get your Thai Bahts before leaving before leaving Malaysia. Also at some towns, it may not be possible to change the Malaysian Ringgit to Thai Bahts.

6. Accomodations
Our accommodations for one night at Pak Chom was at the Rim Khong Resort (ริมโขง รีสอร์ท) (GPS: 18.02517, 101.89066), a twin-sharing room for THB400 and a large three bedder room for THB900.

7. Food
Breakfast was quite good Thai pork porridge at a shop (GPS: 17.89691, 101.66014) in Chiang Khan next to the Wat Tha Khrok. This shop also sells the dried raw noodles.
- Lunch was Thai dishes at the food court pf the Pak Chom Food Market (GPS: 18.02386, 101.88502).
- Dinner was chicken rice at the Cha Chef Coffeeshop (ปากชม) (GPS: 18.02255, 101.88222). This shop also sells wantan noodles.

8. Weather
November and December are good months to ride in Isan and Laos as the weather is quite cooling and the possibility of rain is low. Early morning temperatures is between 18 to 20°C, mid morning between around 22°C and afternoons 26-28°C.

9. Navigation
Where data signal is available and strong, one can use Google Maps to navigate around. If the cycling options may not be available, just use the walking options.
In cases where data signal is weak or unavailable (like in remote rural areas), install MAP.ME into your phone. It's an off-line map app.   
Alternatively, use a dedicated GPS unit like those from Garmin. However ensure that one install the Thailand and Laos maps into the unit.


The day before we had cycled from Loei to Chiang Khan and had enjoyed the old-town feel of the timber houses of the place, the riverside walkway, and it's night market. Chiang Khan was a beautiful and pleasant place but we had to say our goodbye and head for Pak Chom. Today will also be a day of doing alms.


Cycling Route Chiangkhanburi Hotel>Phajoamnang Temple>Wat Tha Samran>Pak Chom Food Market>Rim Khong Resort (Pak Chom).
Cycling Distance: 43.16 km.          |             Level: Medium
The route runs along Route 211 and mostly hugs the Mekong but at a few sections do cut inland to avoid the cliffs at the river side. It is an interesting route passing by small towns and rural scenes.

5:30am - Today we are going to give alms to the monks. We woke up early, cycled to Chai Khong Road where the alms giving will be performed. Even at this early hour, many devotees had already gathered, placed their offerings and knelt down in waiting.

The monks came and we gave alms in terms of food, flowers and drinks. All of this were put into a bag that the monks carried. After offering, most will kneel with their heads bowing and touching the ground while the monks chanted some prayers in blessing.

Items for offering can be bought from vendors, who had thoughtfully laid out mats on the roads for devotees to sit/kneel on. Above is a typical basket of offering; in the small rattan container is glutinous rice.

We adjourned to our favourite foodie joint in Chiang Khan, the shop next to Wat Tha Khrok for our breakfast. We loved this place; besides having good food it has that small town rustic atmosphere that represents the town so well.

We went for minced pork porridge and ordered Yau Char Kwai (deep fried Chinese Cruller). It went so well with the porridge that we ordered seconds; we wanted to go for round 3, but then it was sold out by then - seems like it is a favourite among locals too.

7:00 am - We had out of Chiang Khan, starting our journey for Pak Chom. Immediately after leaving town we met a series of slopes, fairly steep but not too taxing (or perhaps it was because we were still morning fresh).

Fourteen kilometres down, the cool morning air tempted us to stop at what looked like a temple next to the Mekong. We stopped there and took a short snooze on these wooden bench like beds. While relaxing, I noticed a tall chimney and asked Huat what that was for....
"Oh... that's the chimney for the this crematorium." "Huh? We are at a crematorium?"
.... these benches that we are snoozing on.... er... what are they used for? .... putting corpses prior to cremating?
"Oh dear!!!"
I quickly said a silent prayer.

Our route showed us the beauty of the rural area; like these farm workers harvesting rice at the padi fields. Notice those vehicles parked on the right .....

..... these are the work-horse of the country folks - adapted tractors with front and rear racks for cargo... or very often people too!

It is true, Thailand is a Land of a Thousand Smiles. Everywhere we went, the locals were most happy to see us, smiling and waving at us.

Our route skimmed the edge of the Mekong, within the rivers were small islands and even there people did farming as the soil there would be all the more fertile. On the other side is Laos; some of these islands belongs to Laos and some to Thailand.

More stretches of slopes ahead. Yes! Even though we are skirting the river, there were several stretches of slope. But these will get less as we approached closer to Pak Chom.

Rest stop at Phajoamnang Temple; it's a small opened-wall shrine but was still very clean. Like most Oriental temples, visitors and patrons have to take off their shoes before entering.
A few monks man this temple, they were very cordial and even offered us coffee.

At the rear of the temple is a nice little garden with several statues and a small fountain. This one above is unique one of Buddha on one of his journeys.

What is more interesting about this temple is that the monks live in huts sitting on the steep slopes of the hill on the opposite side of the road. Up there they must have a fantastic view of the Mekong.

Further on - a police security check.... don't see this as often as in the restive south....

... irrespective of the check point, things here are quite and tranquil, further down the road an old lady just saunter on the road unbothered by traffic as there were hardly any.

At Wat Tha Samran another stop. Yes, we are stopping often to take in the rustic atmosphere, taking in the chi from the Mekong..... and most of all to take a snooze. Hey! we did wake up very early this morning.
As we snoozed, suddenly we heard children singing. There is a small kindergarten next to the temple, tucked away in one corner. They looked so cute and lovable, so we asked their teacher if we could get them some treats. Yes, was the answer! (Note: it is always better to enquire first as we were in a foreign country and their culture could be different).

Off Huat and me went, cycling into town to the nearest grocery shop to buy drinks, some snacks. The ladies manning the shop were cute... and chatty too. Sitting there with their sarongs, they just complete the image that I have of a small Thai town.

One thing we admired about the Thais, from young they were trained to be polite, to respect their elders. The young school-children were not impatient or worried about not getting their goodies; they slowly waited for their teacher to distribute it to them and giving us thanks even before that.
"Khob Khun Khab/Kha!"

At the far end of the temple grounds, sitting at an edge above the Mekong is a small shrien with some interesting statues - a golden Pha Phrom (four faced Buddha) statue, an old Buddha statue sitting akimbo in lotus position and a green Apson (Apsara) statue.

From  here too we could see the Ban Khok Phai Border Checkpoint. Passenger longboats bring people over from a jetty from the Laos side, while large open-open platform ferries transport large trucks. These trucks with Chinese character number plates must have come all the way from Southern China.

11:15am - We ride into Pak Chom; it's a small town with most commercial activities lining a one kilometre main street.

With not that many eatery shops around, we decided to zoom in at the Pak Chom Food Market for lunch. There are a couple of stalls next to each other that sell cooked food; however there seems to be a space war between them; one can't order food from the other stall and sit at the tables in front of the next one. Chew & me had ordered Khai Jiao (ไข่เจียว - Thai omelette) which turned out not to be what we wanted; we saw our friends at the next table having a one just like what we had a couple of days earlier and so ordered some from that stall. He could not send it to us, so we had to quickly finished our food and go over to the tables in front of his stall... Dang!
(Actually we had ordered the wrong omelette, what we actually wanted was Kai Jeow Moo Sab (ไข่เจียวหมูสับ - Thai omelette with minced pork). Hah! Better fine-tune our Thai!

With lunch over, we took a slow leisurely ride on an inner concrete paved road to look for accommodations further ahead. There were not that many along this stretch ...

.. and we ended with Rim Khong Resort. It had rustic timber chalets; charges for a twin-sharing room for THB400 and for a large 3-bedder room for THB900. The 3-bedder costed more as it had a balcony overlooking the Mekong.
It's LAUNDRY TIME! The air-cond compressors were located on the ground floor, just right right to help quick drying our laundry!

6:00pm - Instead of cycling back to town for dinner, we took a walk along the riverside walkway, watching the sunset along the way.

At night, Pak Chom Food Market the had stalls lining the carpark as a night market. After several days of Thai food, we wanted something else and so skipped the food stalls here and went into town itself a food-hunting. Dinner was at the Cha Chef Coffeeshop (ปากชม) which serves chicken rice, wantan noodles and wantan soup. Coincidentally, the shop is next to the town's new 7-11 outlet where we bought some pre-packed wantan soup manufactured by CP Group. The ones by CP although more expensive tasted better.

One of the night highlights in Pak Chom, the flashing neon dragons at the bridge over the Nam Chom River.
(Rātrī s̄wạs̄di̒ - that's good night in Thai)

This is page 5 of a 11-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4- Chiang Khan        |     Go to Other Days     |       Go to D6- Sangkhom >


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