Monday, 30 April 2012

A Bridge Too Far

It was just as well there were a couple of Posts in Waiting as the last couple of days have been spent travelling, 2 night sleepers to be precise. I was surely sorry to leave that little hotel by the lake with the people, service, food and facilities just as I like them. Firstly, I had to get the 30 or so miles back to Phattalung, so what better way than the way I came in the 'collectivo taxi', as I like to call them, at a cost of 75 pence.

First snag as I tried to buy the train ticket, no Visa transactions, and the Baht were running low. Never mind, approach the first young person you see (more likely to speak English) to find the nearest bank. This was a young man Sung We, who has subsequently contacted me (see Comments), and his lady who immediately ushered me into their shiny new 4 x 4, drove me the mile or so to the bank, awaited my return, took me back to the rail station and parted by giving me a box of cakes. I should thank Sing and company for their kindness again, and note the cakes were lovely!

 While looking for Internet access to publish I came across this sign which immediately had me thinking of Jim the Medic. If you ever get 'puffed out' Jim they sell tailor-made batteries for you in Thailand.

A family I met on the platform and had a bit of a laugh with and a bit of 'magic' for the kids.

At the Ticket Office Chiefy already had the ticket printed for the 850Km ride to Bangkok 'First Class', nice clean bed and coffee in the morning - £32.00. The train however, was 2 and a half hours late departing due to torrential rain further down the line so by that time in the continuing heat a beer was in order. At the Restaurant Car fell in with 2 television cameramen and a police officer spending a convivial hour before bed and the luxury of an air-conditioned cabin. After a good nights sleep and daylight again with us, I stationed myself in the boarding stairwell for the next 6 hours looking over a number of birds it would be impossible to estimate. Over that distance it amounted to 'hundreds of thousands' with no 'lifers' but a number of additions to the Trip List. The first HOOPOE was followed by the first ASIAN OPENBILL (which quickly developed into many hundreds), GREEN BEE-EATER, WATERCOCK and possibly HILL PIGEON??

Bangkok at 15:00 was not the place I would have chosen to be, but that was how it was and the was another Blog to post. First, knowing full well what I would be getting, I opted for a 'fivers' worth on a mini city tour by Tuk Tuk.

 One tiny temple by comparison and the sales talk started. All Tuk Tuk drivers are sponsored by goodness knows how many trade outlets tailors, jewellers et al, receiving a bonus if a customer is introduced.

It was searingly hot, and quite frankly the cool comfort of a jeweller's shop was far preferable to wall to wall carbon monoxide so we went for it.

I always feel it's good to get a photo of any vehicle you travel in big cities, the Police have something to go on if you come to grief. Anyway, the polished patter continued as I returned and he told me I hadn't been in the shop for 10 minutes so they wouldn't stamp his card for the 5 litres of petrol that was reward. Now hang on, didn't that driver in 2007 say that and suggesting I 'stump-up' instead?

OK Pal, that's your Bleedin' Lot - Return to Base or in this case nice hotel to do the Post.

Now, you might have noticed how the photographs have jumped out of symmetry, but I ain't going to mention the G word!

There were some city scenes on the way and I was amazed at how 'high' the capital had become building wise,

but you don't have to look far for a bit of wholesome squalor.

Enter John Dawe, ex-Merchant Seaman who worked for many years with Crescent Shipping out of the Medwey Towns for many years. Now, we had to have something more in common than catching the same train to Nong Khai.

One of dozens of Charcoal Makers en-route.

Goodbye Thailand. I chose to engage an Agent to complete all the Customs and Visa applications, been there before and got the T shirt and for the paltry amount it costs your cleared in best time.

That is how it went and soon we were crossing Lao - Thai Friendship Bridge


crossing the Mighty 'Mekong' and into

Laos proper and my 129th country visited. At that side of the border there was a longer wait, but I was the last as all the Officials downed-tools and when for breakfast.

Didn't get there much quicker than those who came later as I still had to wait for the visa to be issued.

The cost of the documentation to get into the country amounts to $35 while $50 includes Agents fee, personal guide through the formalities and an air conditioned ride to the capital Vientiane and a recommended hotel. You'd be silly not to.

It had been another baking hot and humid day in which all had gone well. There is no such animal in Indochina as a 'quiet hotel' and I think I've pulled the short straw but feel Morpheus will soon take over with another day tomorrow 'totally untouched'.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Last Day At The Lake

I would really have difficulty leaving Thale Noi without another hour or two out on the lake. Many of the birds were as the previous visit, but there were some additions to the Trip List which are noted.




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LARGE-BILLED CROW




PURPLE HERON









LITTLE GREBE








RETURNING to the VILLAGE


CICADA found in the cabin just before turning in.