Amber and I are in Mukdahan (a small trade city south of Nakhon Phanom, which is now known for Friendship Bridge #2 connecting Thailand to Laos). We arrived last night after three full days of teaching at my village schools in Pla Pak. She had a lot of fun meeting my students, helping me lead “Daily Routine” activities and taking pictures of me with my classes. On Friday afternoon we caught a ride into NKP with my principal from Pla Pak Noi and hopped on a bus to Mukdahan.
The bus ride was less than comfortable; for most of the two hour trip there were people standing all the way down the aisle (an aisle that was too narrow for the width of my hips!) and the air-con didn’t seem to actually produce cold air. Despite these setbacks we were able to make the most of it. Amber introduced me to The Moth so we passed the time by listening to stories.
Upon arrival at the Mukdahan bus station we were accosted by several Tuk Tuk drivers and quickly bargained for a lower fare before getting in the one that seemed to offer the best deal (a point of controversy, as Amber claims the neighboring driver was offering an even lower fare than the one I chose!). We tore out of the station’s parking lot towards our hotel and Amber experienced her first Tuk Tuk ride with joy.
After dropping our bags off in our room we headed south along the Mekong river to Wine Wild Why?, one of the few restaurants with Roman script and an English menu. The atmosphere was great. There was outdoor seating all along the river’s edge, the whole restaurant was lit up with pretty lights and our waiter even gave us some bug repellent to use. The food was great too. Amber had the green curry dish and I the red.
Today we had coffee at a really cute place called Good Mook, just down the street from our hotel. It was so nice we actually returned this evening for a cocktail (yes, it is a coffee shop, a bar and a restaurant with books, a television and sometimes live music…a great find!) and we will probably visit again tomorrow. After coffee and then breakfast we went to Mukdahan National Park. We did not plan too well and arrived at high noon so walking from rock formation to rock formation was quite a sweaty experience. Luckily there were gazebos and large rocks to rest under until we felt energized enough to make it to the next shelter. On our way back to the park entrance we were asked by several groups of Thai high school girls to take pictures with them. Amusing, I know.
Getting back to Mukdahan was more of an ordeal than we anticipated (and if my mom asks, the story that follows actually didn’t happen). We asked the ticket office personnel where we could catch a sawngtaew (Baht bus) back to the city. They said we needed to get to the thanon yai (big road) about a kilometer away. Before we knew it one of the park security officers pulled up on his motorbike to give us a lift to this road so we climbed on the back and sped away. Once we reached the main road we assumed a baht bus would come by shortly but after about 25 minutes we were laughing at such foolish thoughts. By that time two double-decker tour buses had passed us, heading towards Mukdahan, so I turned to Amber and said I would try to flag down the next one that passes and see if they would let us hitch a ride.
Shortly after saying this a silver truck honked and pulled over to the side of the road. A woman in the passenger seat asked where we were going and then offered to take us since they were heading in the same direction. After weighing our options we decided to accept and as we pulled away I looked behind us and there was the third double-decker, right behind the truck! I tried to make small talk but my limited Thai allowed me to express only two things: I was a teacher and the park was fun. Then we were told the driver was a police officer in Mukdahan. I was skeptical at first but was convinced after we were shown the two bobble-head police officers bouncing away on the dashboard. That was good enough proof for me. The driver also pointed out the police headquarters which happened to be right around the corner from our hotel. We thanked them several times as we climbed out of the truck and then headed upstairs for quick showers before shopping at the Indochina Market and eating dinner at the Night Market.
I’ve really enjoyed our weekend trip, short though it was, because it gave me a chance to explore my backyard. Next weekend we will travel a bit farther and will have more time to do so, since I took off Friday and may possibly have a free day on Monday. Hopefully I’ll post some pictures from this trip before then, but no promises.