Over the past several years, I haven't been to Northeast Thailand at all. Most of my time were spent at either the Andaman coastal provinces like my hometown Phuket or simply running (from the heat) to seek for the cold at Chiang Mai.... When I see people post chic, beautiful photos of Chiang Khan or Phu Tub Berk or just any place, especially the one with sea mist right in front of you like you are staying at the heaven. Well, it's really tricking my travel button...As soon as I was invited by Thai Smile to try out their service of Thai Smile Plus, I accepted immediately as I will also take this opportunity to explore my new experience in this Northeast region, hehe.
Usually, I plan my every trip quite in advance. I have a clear schedule for each day and book hotel prior to my travel. However, this trip is more special than my every trip as for this 3 days and 2 nights trip, I still couldn't decide of where to spend my nights among Loei, Bueng Kan, Nong Khai, Nong Bua Lamphu or Phetchabun Province or should I just cross the boarder to Laos. Therefore, I decided to just book a flight to Udon Thani as it's not so far from the places I wanted to visit. I could also drive to these places within 3-4 hours which is not too bad. For the car, I already asked for the support from AVIS....And this comes my first time review on a daily trip... Let's go see whether I will make it or not together, hehe.
Before starting our journey, allow me to introduce my works channel:
For this trip, I travel from Phuket and stopover at Bangkok to stay with my younger sister for a night. Then I fly with Thai Smile the next late morning to Udon Thani... As for the service of Thai Smile Plus, in addition to the full service of light premium airlines like baggage loading, free seat selection as well as snack service on board, following special service is also offered:
- Check in is special as it's faster and more convenient since the queue is not long.
- The middle space in each side is provided for the comfort while sitting and the armrest can be adjusted wider. But if you would like to hold hands with your sweetheart or snuggle to each other, this space can be disturbing, hehe... For those who have large body or long legs, if possible, I recommend you to choose the front row seat as it will have wider space for foot resting.
- You can board and get loaded baggage before ordinary passengers. The seats for Thai Smile Plus is also located at the front of the aircraft.
- You can use Thai Airways Lounge, in case that airport doesn't have the lounge, you will get a coupon to enjoy food at the airport food court.
- You will have 30 Kg. free baggage allowance. This is especially ideal solutions for passengers who have several days abroad trip with a heavy luggage and need to make a connecting flight in which you might get charged a lot when flying with low cost airline.
- Welcome Drink is available before taking off and get a special selection from 2 special menu on board.
- The ticket is flexible for date and time change under the airline' terms and conditions.
A fresh and beautiful cabin crew in a new uniform
The space in front of our seat ... To make it most comfortable, I recommend to choose the front row, you can comfortably stretching your feet.
Food from my 2 flights, everything is delicious except the sandwich that I feel the taste is a bit too normal.
I must say that I'm very impressed with it...The seat is really more comfortable. I think partly because I'm quite tall and when I can fully stretch my legs, I feel much more comfortable than regular seat. It is especially comfy with the front row seats, you will certainly feel it if you are a bit chubby person....For the food, they are all tasty (I get to taste several menus from my 4 flights as I also try my girlfriend's food who is traveling with me). However, tuna sandwich tastes too normal (it tasted goo but not special). Apart from this, they are all super delicious and the sauce are made not spicy as they might want to also facilitate foreign passengers' mild taste.
For the general services, all cabin crews look very fresh and ready to serve. In fact, this is not surprising as most of Thai airlines provide an excellent service. Yet, the new uniform of Thai Smile makes cabin crews looks very fresh and that brighten up the world. While I was on the flight, which takes about an hour to reach Udon Thani, I decided to go to Chiang Khan first as it takes about 3 hours drive so I won't be too tired and let's plan for the other days later...
We arrive Udon Thani Airport on time, then we just go to get our rental car with AVIS...The counter is very easy to be found as it's located at the airport building and you can see it clearly in red from departure gate.
It is very convenient to receive the rental car from AVIS as the car will be parked at the exit gate from the airport. We don't have to carry our luggage far and this is especially helpful if we are traveling with elders or the children.
My rental car for this trip is Honda CIVIC. After finishing documentation and photo taking around the car like my every trip, now let's start our journey.....
From Udon Thani, I drive pass Nongbua Lumphu Province and Muang District of Loei Province. Then I continue north to Chiang Khan District which boarders Thailand-Laos...Some part of this route is undergoing renovation so I can't really measure the time. On the way, we also try to find out as of where to spend our night. Finally, we choose to stay at Chiang Khan Gallery Resort. Then, we make a call and finds that the price is lower than listed on website agents and without breakfast, the price gets even lower. Besides, this resort is situated along the way to enjoy sea mist at Phu Thok, so it is quite a convenient location.
Beautiful fields along the way
Late afternoon, google on my mobile phone takes me to the resort which needs about 5 minutes drive from the main road. The road may pave but with quite some holes...For Chiang Khan Gallery Resort, it is very colorful and clean. It seems like recently there's not many customers, so we weren't asked to deposit for the booking (they didn't even ask for our name so we weren't sure if we had the place booked, haha).
The room here is quite colorful. When the tourists are few like this, you can choose the color you like...The room is similarly decorated with sweet tone. Free WIFI, TV, warm water, refrigerator and amenities are all available. But it's a bit dusty as the room possibly hasn't been used much these days. For a sensitive person, your nose could feel itchy.
After checking into the room, then it's time for dinner. We also use the phone to search for eating places. After a few web search, we agree that we will try "Khao Piek" or Rice Noodle Soup at Ngoi Khong Restaurant... From the resort, a short drive takes us to walking street zone. This makes me feel that I was right in choosing to stay at a bit far resort so that we can have a quiet atmosphere and it wouldn't be too difficult to find a parking lot. After driving along the walking street where parking is not allowed, we finally find one at the end of the street (for both side of the walking street, you can also park inside the temple for free)... From the parking place, we enjoy the ancient houses while walking to the restaurant. And not so far from that we reach one of the famous restaurants here. The menu for our dinner is Khao Piak and Khai Kata (hot plate eggs). They both are actually breakfast but they are also available for dinner, quite interesting). The taste is very delicious. The pork of Khao Piak is really yummy and it would be much more delicious eating in the winter instead of hot weather like this, hehe.
I park my car at this temple.
We will walk back a bit for the food. Most of houses on two sides are wooden houses.
My dinner, does it look appetizing? (in fact, it's more suitable for breakfast, hehe).
That we fill up our energy, now it's time to sightseeing architecture of houses again. Although this is yet a tourist season, they are decent numbers of tourists. Many accommodations put out a sign as full and this is a very delighted news for the locals here...For the overall atmosphere, it is the mixture of the old and the new and the new that were made to look old. In a generous perspective, this is a touristable town despite some changes from urban people's demands but the charm of villages along the river is still here to be felt.
Let's continue our walk, the atmosphere is fairly lively but not too crowded.
What I like most is the road along the river which is still under the renovation to make it safer and more convenient. Yellow Cosmos are planted along the way and beautifully blossoming in yellowish orange.
Walking slowly and enjoying the scene of boat running in Mekong River simply makes me indescribable happy...I think this is what the urban people are seeking and it is the main food psychologically. For some other chic things or civilized things are like MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). It is needed to make you addict, but too much or too long is not healthy for both producers and consumers.
After walking until late evening, it's time to go back for some rest as we will be going for a sea mist tomorrow morning at Phu Thok.
The sky is quite clear so I want to take star shots at the balcony on the rooftop that the resort has provided for viewpoint. Unfortunately, the light is off so we have to walk in dark to find the way, hehe.
I set alarm clock at 5 a.m. to see the conditions of light but seems like I set it wrong. Before I knew it, it's already bright. So I jump quickly to open the curtain and that I still see some light mist. Then I hurry to wash my face and prepare to go to Phu Thok. I'm very delighted to know that I can still see the mist even in this season (even if it's not a sea mist but just some is better than nothing, I think). Before I jump out of the room, I leaned out the window to feel the cold wind in the morning, but.....I was slapped in the face with this hot wind. It's even hotter than the air-con room....
From the hotel, I drive following the sign...In approximately 10 minutes and we arrive the parking lot where we need to park our car for a 20 THB fee and then buy a 20 THB each Song Taew ticket to go up to the hill...I'm secretly wish the car to get full soon as I'm the first person to step on the car and I'm afraid that the mist might be all gone...The driver seems to know my wish, he drives out even though it's only me and my girlfriend in the car.....The car then slowly drives up towards the paved and a bit curvy but not too steep road.
On the way to Phu Thok, you must leave your car here and buy a Song Taew ticket to go up.
The route towards Phu Thok
Going up to a certain level, we start to see thicker fog and right before we reach the top, a far distance of sea mist visibly appears herself in front of us...OMG, I'm so lucky. Thinking about that this year is yet so cold and I get to see this kind of sea mist, it is so awesome!
When I reach Phu Thok, I immediately head straight towards the viewpoint where many tourists are already almost fully occupied the area to enjoy the view. If I were here at 5 a.m., I would have opportunity to capture the beautiful light. But when I came, the sun is already risen so I missed that atmosphere...
I spend a quality time up here to capture good memory and beautiful photos before getting down Phu Thok. On the way down, I'm thinking over and over again of whether I should stay another night since I missed this morning lighting shots. But thinking again, I should just come back other time as there's still several attractions along Mekong River awaiting for us to discover.
Amazing Sea Mist at Phu Thok
From Phu Thok, we head back to walking street again for breakfast and morning atmosphere of Chiang Khan... We have rice porridge at the first shop of walking street. The taste is quite delicious but the pork at Ngoi Khong restaurant is more yummy....The atmosphere at late morning is quieter than the evening. Many shops are still closed. If the weather were cold and we got to enjoy our morning walk, it would have been so nice. But now the weather is still hot, so it's not so enjoyable. I walk just the third of it and decided to go back to continue our journey.
After checking out from the resort, I choose to travel along Mekong River towards Nong Khai Province. My destination is Sangkhom District, a place that has many interesting tourist attractions.
Not so far from Chiang Khan, I see Kaeng Kud Ku (the rapids place) sign. Then, I simply follow the sign as I only heard of its name and yet know how it looks so I want to find out too. Along the way, I see many 'Maprao Kaew" (coconut coated sugar candy). The point is they are much cheaper than the ones in walking street, I'm quite upset as I already bought many of them earlier, haha.
Since this is the end of rainy season, the water is still a lot so only few rapids are visible. Instead of seeing many rapids, we only see some rocks visible above the water. So I just make a quick visit.
I continue to drive along Mekong River and find that it's much comfortable than a drive from Udon Thani to Chiang Khan using downtown route. This route has less car, the road is in good conditions and the view is much more beautiful.
I arrive Sangkhom District at lunch time so I asked advice from the fruit seller along the way for a good place for lunch. She recommended us to go to Jae Nong restaurant which is located close to Mekong River...The atmosphere of the shop is nice but since it's too hot so it's not so comfortable. We have a desperate menu for our lunch which is fried basil with chicken and fried eggs but also we have Mekong fish as another dish....The fish is soft but not so sweet in comparison to the price, it's not so worthy (but the chicken basil is quite yummy, hehe).
I decided to stay at Sangkhom District because I found out that this place offers another amazing sea mist viewpoint called "Phu Huay Ei San". Deputy of Tambon Administration Organization (TAO) is the one who makes this place well known. He collected the information of Tambon (or sub-district) Ban Muang and tourist attractions in this area as well as in Sangkhom District and posted them on the website of TAO. Furthermore, he also gives his personal phone number for further inquiries. I also called him up for more information. I ask him whether I can go up to the hill for sea mist now. The information I found indicates that this time is not the sea mist season so the car to take us up is not yet available.... He said we can still go up by contacting our hotel up there and they will arrange things for us. He also recommended us to stay at Rim Kong River View Resort which is located not so from going to Phu Huay Ei San entrance. For sea mist, we might not see it and if there's rain, we might get to see some of them.
For more tourism information of Ban Muang TAO, please visit http://www.baanmuang.com/. For tourists who are interested in forest or sea mist visit, please contact local tour guide at 089-7694856 or 087-2195500.
After gathering all the information, I drive back to Rim Kong River View Resort which is located not so far from Ban Muang TAO.... The accommodation here are offered in bungalows style. It is located near Mekong River, quite an atmosphere!
It seems like this resort is the only resort in Ban Muang Sub-district if I understand correctly (another place provides a tent service)... This place is a hundred THB resort and the facilities are similar to the previous accommodation except the WIFI signal inside the room is weak so we need to use it at the front of the resort.
I'm not sure whether they have online agent, so I provide the contact information here:
[Spoil] คลิกเพื่อดูข้อความที่ซ่อนไว้ Tel: 082-4459700 and Facebook : mkriverview
After checking in and unpacking stuff, I call the resort owner (the telephone is available at the door) to book for the mountain truck to go up Phu Huay Ei San the next morning....The owner said the truck will pick us up at 5 a.m. in a hire the whole truck price as there's only the two of us.
We still have some time this afternoon before the sun is set so we go straight to Than Thip Waterfall, another interesting attraction of Sangkham District....
On the way to the waterfall, there's also beautiful fields for photography.
Than Thip Waterfall is located not so far from the main road. We only walk for five minutes on the waterfall's first level... The water in this floor is not so deep in compared to a quite tall waterfall. But the highlight is the wooden bridge built by TAO.They might have wanted it to look like one waterfall in Chiang Mai which is the background of Ruk Jung movie.
From this floor, we will be walking in deep stairs towards second floor. Waterfall in this floor is higher than the first floor and this shows us another angle of its beauty.
In fact, there's another floor but we need the staff to lead us up so I didn't have any photos here.
From the waterfall, I drive towards Sangkhom District again in which my destination is Wat Pha Tak Suea, another very beautiful viewpoint of Nong Khai Province...
Rice fields and beautiful lighting along the way makes me can't resist to stop for photography.
The entrance to Wat Pha Tak Suea is located around Than Thong Waterfall (another tourist attraction of Sangkhom District). The easy notice point is that there will so many shops. From here, we need to drive up a bit and we will find the first viewpoint which can oversee Sangkhom District, Mekong river and mountains on Laos side.
A few step from the first viewpoint, we will reach Wat Pha Tak Suea which has the great scenic viewpoint at the bell tower and near nun's houses. To take photography here, we need to dress properly and be quiet.
I wait to capture the last light of the day before going back to the accommodation.
The Last Light of the Day
Tonight, the sky is so cloudy that I have no chance to shoot stars. I go to bed directly and wake up again when I hear the alarm clock around 4 a.m..
I wash up quickly and walk to see outside atmosphere....The temperature is similar to yesterday, that is it's still warm but the difference is there's no sign of mist. So I make up my heart that I won't be able to see sea mist.
Then, I dress up and wait outside our room (It looks like i'm going to department store because this is my last shirt and when I packed I didn't think of where to visit yet, hehe)...About 10 minutes later, I heard the voice of this mountain truck in far distance.
The driver, Ban Muang local, slowly drives us up the hill. The road is tougher than I thought. Lucky that the rain had stopped for several days, otherwise I might have to walk in mud with my shopping outfit (just thinking about it, I already feel sorry for myself)....On both side of the road is the rubber plantation, only when we are about to reach the top that we start to see the corn field and below view.
It's just like what I expected, this morning has no mist and very cloudy.....only some redish orange light creeping out to console us a bit before everything turns grey....I take photos in switching with catching mosquitoes a while before deciding to tell the driver to take us home...Since I come here before tourism season starts, so he cannot take me to a higher viewpoint as the road is very slippery and it can be dangerous. Now that the tourism season comes, I believe that the TAO and the locals have improved the conditions of the road to welcome the sea mist lovers to experience Phu Huay Ei San in a more convenient way. Anyhow, please check the information with TAO again before traveling.
On the way down, it's already bright so I have some of its atmosphere for you here.
P.S. Up here there's not much facilities. During tourist season, tent will be provided but the bathroom is a temporary one and there's a lot of mosquitoes here. Please get yourself prepared for this.
From Phu Huay Ei San to our resort, it is only 300 THB for both of us. I'm quite surprised since the round trip takes about 40 minutes already (If I remember it correctly, during tourist season, it's 60 THB per person).
If leaving the part of the annoyed sound of this truck, I think this idea is great as it helps distribute income to locals while tourists also get to experience local atmosphere. More importantly, they can also manage the tourism order.
For my last program of the day, I will just drive back to enjoy Udon Thani downtown. From Sangkhom District, I drive along Mekong River towards Nong Khai Province. And right before reaching this province, there's a right turn to Udon Thani and the road is in good condition. I arrive Udon Thani just in time for lunch, and of course, how could I miss one of the most famous food in Udon Thai, VT Nam Nueng (Vietnamese food).
It amazes me just by driving in as they have a very good management system. They also offer drive through service. For dine in, after I park the car I will walk pass this Nam Nueng producer machine. This is another thing that really strike me and now I understand why the branch in my hometown Phuket opens in such a spectacular place.
We order several menu for lunch. It is quite difficult to want to try so many menu for just the two menus. As some menu is not available in small set, so we both are so full. The taste is of course very satisfying and the price is cheaper than Phuket Branch.
I also buy some home from here. Then, we travel to Thai-Chinese Cultural Center which is located not so far from here... The highlight of this place is a beautiful Chinese garden and colorful CARF fish swimming around... so astonishing....especially we feed them, they will all gather at one place in a big crowd.
Let's see CARP fish with turbo, hehe.
Going out from the Thai-Chinese Cultural Center, I drive to a famous community mall of Udon Thani, UD Town for some coffee before going straight to the airport.
Returning the car is also equally convenient. The renters just need to park the rental car of AVIS at the gate and the staff will come and take it. It is so convenient and we don't need to carry our luggage far.
Then, I take my luggage for checking at Thai Smile Counter (Thai Airways Counter)... Since Udon Thani Airport doesn't have a Thai Airways lounge yet, Thai Smile provides us a coupon to use at food court on the second floor which is located opposite to the departure gate...Even I'm quite full, I still order coconut juice, dumplings, and Salapao as light snacks (almost goes up to my neck now, haha).
OMG, I forgot that we are seating on Thai Smile Plus, there's still food on board. But like I said, I'm quite stingy, so I didn't miss any food from Udon Thani to Bangkok and Bangkok to Phuket flight. This trip is the fullest trip and very happy trip, haha....
This journey, in addition to new experiences I got..... While some were unexpectedly beautiful and some were disappointed, but all of them is the flavor for the fun and worthy trip. And I conclude that a day to day travel is also fun and not any less than a well planned trip.
Finally, please stay tuned to following channels of my reviews:
And see you again at my next trip!
Thursday, November 12, 2015 2:20 PM