Bangkok is really sticky, and we needed some respite from this and decided to go to the cinema to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. On arriving in Siam Square, I stupidly flicked the butt of my cigarette onto the street, and was immediately confronted by a Thai Policeman. I was going to be fined 2000 Bhat (40 quid), and was led away to meet the Sergeant who would roll out the official paperwork. We were both gutted. I advised the Sergeant I would have to go to the bank, my mind was working overtime, wondering if these were real policemen. They looked official, yet had no hats, and the paperwork was like 8th generation photocopies. I asked to see official ID, and was quickly shown a laminated pass, which looked a bit DIY. I was told that if I could not pay the fine, I would be taken to the Police Station. Bummer 😦 I actually had about 600 quid in my concealed moneybelt, but was playing for time. The Sergeant then asked how much money I had on me, and when I pulled out 900 Bhat, he advised if I was to pay him 500 Bhat, then he would not file the report, and the matter would be concluded. I kept eyeing his uniform, wondering if this was a scam? I stalled again, and he could tell I was reluctant to part with any money. Time was ticking, we had spent 15 minutes with him, and then I told him I thought the fine was huge for such a minor offence. He asked me to wait a few minutes, and had a conversation with his colleague, and returned advising me that if I picked up the cigarette but, I could just go. I thanked him graciously, and we legged it as quick as we could. After the film, the two gents were still in the same position conversing with what looked like the “real” police. Turned out they were official after all, but were some form of tourist police ie. No Guns. Think we had been quite lucky there. The film was pretty good, and we had managed to avoid the hottest part of the day.
We had decided it was time to leave Bangkok again, as after 2 days, we had recovered from the last long train journey and were up for a move again. We organised our banking, we had been withdrawing daily amounts from the ATM as in Laos, the most you can withdraw is 50 quid at a time and the withdrawal fees would be horrendous. We arranged for some US Dollars for the Laos visa, picked up our laundry and packed our bags. We were just discussing the fact that it was unlikely that we would bump into some of the people we had met in the past while waiting at the Bus Stop, when Michelle spotted Tipany, the ex Bankrobbing Chess player from Finland. We chatted for a while and exchanged emails, hopeful we could meet up at some stage for a Chess tournament. Hopefully after 9/10 months of playing we can both now give him more of a challenge.
The plan was to head East, to Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) first, about 5 hours away, then onto Ubon Ratchthani, a further 6 hours away, which would have taken us close to the Southern part of Laos. From there, a linear journey Northwards through Laos without any doubling back. On reaching Khorat, the 2nd biggest city in Thailand, we found that we had entered an industrial type city, with heavy traffic, thick polluted air, and not much going on in the way of things to do. There were daytrips that could be undertaken, but most seemed to be quite laborious and too much trouble for what would ultimately be, for example, a temple visit. Ubon Ratchthani seemed to be more of the same, so we needed an alternative plan.
Nong Khai is right up in the far North East of Thailand, right on the border with Laos, and about 20km from the Laos capital of Vientiane. We arrived here by default really. We spent the evening reading the Lonely Planet guide, and happened across the entry for Nong Khai, described as
“an Adorable, sleepy setting beside the Mekong River, enough tourist amenities to dispel isolation and enough local attractions to fill a day with sightseeing, snacking and wandering”
This seemed ideal, a 6 hour bus journey Northwards, and right next to a border crossing for Laos. The downside would be, that we were entering Laos right slap bang in the middle of the country on the West side. This would mean some doubling back on ourselves unless we could manage some kind of loop. Some careful planning would be required.