Today we’re driving across Isaan from Nakhon Ratchasima to the border town of Mukdahan on the banks of the Mekong River.
After driving up from Bangkok Airport, we’ve spent two days in Nakhon Ratchasima and now we’re ready to start our Isaan adventure.
It’s going to be a long drive so we’re on the road before 9 am and after clearing the city, we’re soon travelling on the main highway 2 to the north.
We have a few detours planned and very soon we are turning on to a country road and heading deep into farming country.
The rice harvest is complete
Rice is the main crop here. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice and of course rice is a staple food for Thai people.
It’s the dry season, the harvest has been completed and fields have dried out a golden colour.
Some farmers are harvesting the remaining rice stubble for stock food whilst others are burning it.
The countryside is flat, brown and dusty. It is becoming a hot day with the temperature climbing to 36c. It must be hot working out in the fields.
It’s a hot and dusty day
The monotony of the terrain is broken occasionally by small towns and villages with only two small cities ahead of us on our route.
Fortunately, we have a GPS to guide us as we swap from road to road throughout the day and they vary from major highways through to rural lanes.
We’ve passed through Buriram and Roiet provinces. It’s time for a lunch break and we pull into a petrol station complex, one of many we see throughout our travels.
Petrol stations are not just fuel stops
Petrol stations on the major roads are quite similar throughout the country with central pumps (and excellent customer service) surrounded on three sides by shops.
They consist of a 7Eleven (with a bank of ATMs nearby), an Amazon coffee shop (the Caffe Yen is OK), a food court style restaurant and small shops selling local clothing and souvenirs. And a large and busy toilet block.
They’re very social places and Thai travellers will typically spend a long time enjoying the break from the road.
There are some interesting vehicles on the road
We’re back on the road again.
The city of Yasothon comes and goes and shortly after, we take a “quicker route” (I’m not sure why – it took longer than planned) that bypassed the city of Amnat Chaoren.
By mid-afternoon we’re arriving in Mukdahan – our destination and navigating to our hotel – De Ladda which is on the riverbank.
A most astonishing hotel
After parking the car, we walk into the foyer of this new hotel and marvel at the architecture and the view.
This has to be the most interesting hotel I’ve ever seen in rural Thailand.
A small pathway separates the hotel from the Mekong and the view across the outdoor pool to the river, with the Laos city of Savannakhet on the opposite side is breathtaking.
The foyer itself is fascinating. It has been recreated in a European style. This is a new hotel, bright, clean and modern. The decorations throughout the hotel are a pleasant surprise.
Where else in rural Thailand will you find a statue of Elvis, a portrait of Napoleon, Spanish dolls and brand-new replica Louis XVI furniture. And a motorbike.
The second impressive feature of De Ladda is the stunning view of the Mekong river from every room. On the opposite side of the hotel directly across the road is the owner’s residence. It’s a magnificent example of fine rural living.
The front office staff were friendly and efficient and after settling into our room and marvelling at the facilities and the view from our balcony, we set out towards the Indochine Market in the centre of the town about 500 metres away.
We’re looking forward to exploring what appears to be an interesting city.