Mekong By Bike - 1. Getting There
Last year my friends and I discussed the possibilities of another multi-day cycling trip in Isaan, but a try-out of the Lao highspeed train came first...
Following that epic train journey, we revived the cycling idea and discussed some possible routes.
It took quite a bit of time and emails to sort out the logistics but finally, we agreed on a date to start our 2nd Mekong Bicycle Trip: November 6, meeting in Nong Khai!
The biggest difference was that this time we would be using rented bikes instead of our own! Although Nong Khai has a few bicycle rental places, most of those available are the standard cheapo non-gear ones and often not in very good condition either. Online checking wasn't very successful so I decided to leave a bit earlier in the hope of finding some suitable bikes on the spot.
Therefore I took the SRT Red Line on the evening of the 5th to Krung Thep Apiwat Station.
Since October 16 this line has now become the cheapest as they're charging a flat fee of 20 thb for any distance!
At Krung Thep Apiwat Station it was nice to see some of the old wooden benches in use again!
There's even a kind of vintage Station Master's office display.
Inside the 1st class night train carriage, everything was prepared for going horizontal, ok, no problem!
However, I was glad not to take my Dahon bike with me as there seemed to be much less space for luggage than in the past... Whether my folding bike would have fitted underneath my bed seemed highly doubtful.
Early start as the train staff requested all passengers to get up around 5 AM!
Reflection selfie with a bit of dawn.
Arrived in Nong Khai on time, 06.25 am!
My cycling partners in crime, Tim & Ray (*) were traveling via Khon Kaen and supposedly arriving here later this afternoon.
The most popular form of transportation here is the 'Sky-Lab' (**), a different kind of tuk-tuk, which brought me quickly to Mut Mee Guesthouse (***), just behind the Mekong Riverside Boulevard.
Near my basic but clean and functional room, I possibly met the owner of this establishment, very friendly indeed!
To my pleasant surprise, the staff told me that they had 3 decent bicycles available for rent and after dumping my stuff in my room I tried one out right away; cycling: good, saddle: OK, brakes: poor, but overall workable!
On the whole the quality of the riverside path was pretty good but with a few rough spots as well.
At Wat Sai Thong I met this friendly monk.
At Wat Warukorn Maneetha I took a B-road back but not before snapping this weird character!
In town, I had a better look at the train station and walked around the platforms a bit.
Always nice to see these trains, at least for me!
Further along, I stopped at a petanque game (****) and had a chat with some of the players who immediately offered me some local whiskey... Very friendly, but better not!
Suddenly I bumped into a school excursion at a temple, lots of students were eager to pose.
Automatic Retarder refers to the brake system, not to the students ;-)
Transformers paintwork + local i-team seller!
Some of the street signs were without Naga symbols.
More jogging and walking activities on the boulevard around sunset.
As Tim and Ray had encountered some difficulties I had a meal at Mut Mee while waiting for them.
They finally walked in around 8 pm, joined me at my table, and ordered beer & food.
Over dinner, I updated them about the bikes and what I had seen so far, all good.
Next early morning our trip would get kicked off!!
First cycling route.
Second cycling route.
(*) aka The Ancient Ones (non-Lovecraft related!), our combined age is 200+...
First Mekong Cycling Trip: Mukdahan - That Phanom - Nakhon Phanom & back
Lao Highspeed Train Trip: