Ho Chi Minh and north to Nong Khai

Perfect weather for driving

We’re on the road again and after loving our time in Nakhon Phanom, we’re sad to leave this beautiful and interesting city.

At the moment we’re 800kms north east of Bangkok and today we’re continuing north to the border city of Nong Khai. Nong Khai is across the Mekong River from Vientiane in Laos.

It’s going to be a long drive but our first (and most important) stop is only a few minutes’ away.

Ho Chi Minh lived near Nakhon Phanom

Ho Chi Minh lived here

We’re going to see the house where Ho Chi Minh lived in the 1920s and from where he planned the revolution back in Vietnam.

It’s not well signposted so we slowly and carefully made our way off the highway and down country lanes. We’re in lush, rich farming land. Although rural people are up and about early, we haven’t anyone. We arrive at the house and park nearby.

The house and grounds are well maintained

It’s peaceful place with the silence broken only by the birds calling from the trees.

The house is old but exceptionally well maintained. The grounds too are neat and tidy.

Lush green market gardens

We’d like to look inside. There is no one around, so out of respect we don’t knock on the door but return to our car.

Vietnam Friendship Village entrance

We pass the ornate archway of the Vietnam Friendship Village as we make our way back to the highway and continue west to Sakon Nakhon and Udon Thani and finally Nong Khai.

Back on the busy highway

One of the many small towns we pass during the day

The road is busy with buses and cars competing with trucks and farm vehicles for organised positions in the traffic. Scooters, especially near the towns and cities, are prolific and blissfully weave through the traffic in a world of their own.

A flower garland may bring you luck

As I’ve experienced all across Thailand, at major intersections there will be a flower garland seller walking down the lines of vehicles at the traffic lights. They’re well covered up to escape from the sun with a mask to keep out the fumes from the vehicles.

Flower garland selling is hot work

The garlands are made with fresh flowers and are purchased by motorists and hung on the rear vision mirror to keep the occupants of the vehicle safe throughout their trip. Even some scooter riders buy them but I suspect that they’ll need more than one. You’ll also see them in businesses and shops. The standard price across the country seems to be 20bt.

The Thai name for the garland is Phuang Malai. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the same words also mean ‘steering wheel’.

The lights turn green and the traffic moves off. The flower seller slowly walks back to the lights.

Petrol stations in Thailand are fantastic

Thai petrol stations are a welcome break from the road

Comfort stop time and we pull into one of the many petrol stations on every major road across Thailand.

They are mostly large and modern with central pumps (and excellent customer service) surrounded on three sides by shops.

Much more that a fuel stop

They mostly include a 7Eleven (with a bank of ATMs nearby), Amazon coffee shop, a food court style restaurant and small shops selling local clothing and local souvenirs. And large and busy toilets.

Caffe yen is an excellent choice on a hot day

First off, fuel for the car then a well-earned coffee break. As it’s a warm climate, my preference is an iced coffee (cafee yen). It’s good to be out of the car and the coffee is refreshing.

It’s a busy place with vehicles arriving and leaving constantly and the shops as well as the restrooms are all busy.

Beautifully manicured water feature

Some of the landscaping is superb. This place has a water feature that is quite impressive and a quiet spot to relax for a while.

We had planned a brief stop but it’s almost an hour before we’re underway again.

It’s a hot day under the sun

A group of monks on the move under the hot sun

We’ve skirted Sakon Nakhon and heading for Udon Thani. In one of the small towns we see a line of monks walking along the road to a religious ceremony. The day is hot and the sun relentless as they walk on serenely.

It’s cane harvesting season with many trucks on the roads

As we pass through sugar cane farms, we are slowed by the trucks hauling the cane to the sugar mills for processing. Many of the trucks are old, heavily loaded and therefore slow. Patience is required in overtaking them.

Thai policemen are polite and friendly

By mid afternoon we’ve turned north and we’re skirting one of Isaan’s major cities, Udon Thani and on the outskirts stopped at a police checkpoint. The policemen are all polite and after a license check we’re quickly on our way.

We’re closing in on Nong Khai

We’re nearly there

It’s late afternoon when we near the border city of Nong Khai. Huge road signs appear pointing us either to the border crossing checkpoint or the city itself.

Oops. We’ve reached the edge of Thailand.

With only two possible directions to take, naturally we take the wrong one. We arrive at the Customs Checkpoint but as we aren’t proceeding into Laos, we offer a thousand apologies and we’re quickly redirected back out of the border zone towards Nong Khai.

We’ve now driven more than 1200 kilometres and looking forward to exploring the city and surrounds of Nong Khai. We’re back on the Mekong River again.

Back on the Mekong River