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Posted by eastwest on 4/3/2014 at 05:25

Starting next week I'll have to spend 2-3 weeks in Thailand waiting for my new passport. Some of this time I'll spend in BKK to catch up with friends but where to go for the remaining 7-10 days?

I've been many times to Thailand and have seen all the major sites. I'm looking for a single place in Thailand to kick back and read some books. No interest in beach, nor backpacker/ tourist atmosphere, nor extensive travelling (apart from getting there and some day excursions).

I'm looking for a place that has the following
- Natural surroundings for some simple but pleasant walks
- A simple decent guesthouse/hotel with a nice balcony overlooking a river/scenery to read some books and spend most of my time
- some decent food options with a wide price range (from street food to interesting restaurants)
- I'm not looking to socialize so the less foreigners the better. I work in hospitality so am trying to avoid the daily tourist/traveler small talk.

Any suggestions appreciated

#1 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by somtam2000 on 4/3/2014 at 05:41 admin

Off the top of my head, Sangkhlaburi or Sangkhom .

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Posted by exacto on 4/3/2014 at 06:29

Sangkhom, in Nong Khai Province, was the first place that came to my mind too. Bouy Guesthouse is right along the river and I recall watching people work and play in the river from my bungalow hammock. I don't think Sangkhom will have the full range of restaurant options, however, but you might be able to meet that need in Nong Khai on the trip out. There are several other small towns along that section of the Mekong that are worth a look too.

Trat town also might be an option. It has good day and night markets, few tourists, and a good choice of places to stay, although I can't think of anything with that perfect laid-back river or rice field view.

Good luck!

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Posted by somtam2000 on 4/3/2014 at 06:37 admin

I have a Sangkhom research package on my desk actually -- by @dluek -- we should have it on the site by next week.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 4/3/2014 at 07:01

Khong Chiam. Two rivers, good food. Hardly a foreigner. Nice chilled spot. Can fly to ubon and get a bus from there or hire a bike.

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Posted by Tilapia on 4/3/2014 at 15:28

I'd also recommend Buoy Bungalow in Sangkhom though, as exacto mentioned, there isn't much of a restaurant scene in the village. At least there wasn't last time I was there a couple of years ago. Fantastic food at Buoy, though, and the area has everything else that you're looking for. Great area for walking. A very laid back spot! If you go, call ahead and ask for the largest bungalow with the attached bathroom that looks like a tree. The porch is larger than the bungalow itself.

Ditto for Sangkhlaburi. Super nice spot to hang your hat, and probably a bit more comfortable temperature-wise. It will be overrun on holidays and weekends, though.

Another decent area is Bang Krachao, just on the southern edge of Bangkok and across from Khlong Toei. Very beautiful place. Close to the action, but you'd never know it.

Khong Chiam, as LC says, is also a nice, quiet, out-of-the-way spot.

Chiang Khan can be a nice place to hole-up for a bit, especially at the Chiang Khan Guest House but, like Sangkhlaburi, it gets swamped with Thai tourists on weekends and holidays. About 40 km east along the Mekong from there is Pak Chom which also has a nice bungalow spot on the river in a nice, hilly area that sees virtually no visitors except cyclists and motorcyclists.

You may not be looking for a beach, but Koh Si Boya (Si Boya Bungalows) is a very quiet, affordable operation on what is more of gravelly mudflat than a beach. Excellent views across to Phi Phi and Phi Phi Leh, as well as Koh Jum. No "restaurant" options other than the really good one at the resort, but lots of places for nice long walks either along the water or through the farmland which is what most of the island is.

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Posted by eastwest on 4/3/2014 at 19:54

thanks for the reactions. I will look into all of the suggestions and some look very promising.

Just to elaborate on my previous requirements and perhaps get some some more suggestions:
- food options are really important to me. If I stay in one place for 1 week or so I don't want to eat in the same restaurant every day. No matter how good it is.
- my options are not limited to river scenery (I may have given that impression). Any sort of scenery (mountains, sea) will do. When I wrote no beach I was more referring to no beach life (sunbathing, partying, drinking and so on) rather than no beach scenery.
- I don't mind Thai crowds during holidays or normal periods. I don't speak the language and they would form part of the scenery for me. Wouldn't mind some sincere interaction with Thais (or foreigners for that matter). Just trying to avoid the superficial "where are you from?" "How long have you been travelling?" conversations. I do that for a living so it wouldn't be much of a holiday if I had to do that during this time.

#7 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by DLuek on 5/3/2014 at 00:12 TF writer

The two that immediately popped into my head were also Sangkhlaburi and Sangkhom. :)

I also like Mukdahan for a relaxed Mekong town with enough eating options to keep you from getting bored, and some decent day trips as well (the national park, That Phanom). In Muk, Riverview is a really good, cheap and comfy guesthouse with good porches overlooking the Mekong. I'm also a big fan of Chanthaburi, and assuming you speak some Thai, this place might be just the peace and quiet you're after. You definitely won't see foreigners there, but you'd want a motorbike.

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Posted by DLuek on 5/3/2014 at 00:24 TF writer

Another suggestion is Pak Chong. Some interesting little resorts with mountain views and several great day trips: obviously Khao Yai NP but also the "farm and wine trail", Chet Sao Noi Waterfall, the reservoir to the north of town and further afield to Wang Nam Kiew or even Khorat, Phimai and Saraburi. But again, you'd need to rent a motorbike.

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Posted by captainbkk on 5/3/2014 at 01:43

you have to outweigh the pro and cons of all-in fact none of the places anyone here raves about is good on a wide variety of food-IF there is any restrt at all, its not more as a streetcart hidden behind a wall with some more plush seats. In fact I remember the foodsituation at Sangkla quite dire. Also-seems to me to specify if that would be Thai food only or also western. IF a small place has 1-2 simple guesthss, you can be pretty sure they attract westerners-Thai would not stay there(and in fact are often refused). IF you mostly want more food choices, then really small places wont qualify.
My 2 satang worth: Trat or Chanthaburi, with a little more ''nature'' around the latter-its also bigger and thus has that noisy busy market scene that any Thai local market town has. Giant local-only nite market for good food.

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Posted by MADMAC on 5/3/2014 at 03:17

I know a place here in Mukdahan that meets your description to a T. It's right on the river, private balcony, restaraunt below... 650 a night. The rooms are nice (how they do it for 650 remains a mystery to me).

I think you've been to Muk right, so you know you the basic laydown of the place and whether or not it appeals.

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Posted by eastwest on 5/3/2014 at 03:45

Nah, never been to Mukdahan. I never thought it was a major site in Thailand :-)

The write-up about Muk on this site is very good and looks like this might be the place for me. Plus the endorsement of two experts here have tipped it in Muks favor. Mac, are you also referring to Riverview hotel in Muk? The balcony/view is the biggest luxury for me. Don't care much for the stuff in hotel rooms but I'm not the real backpacker type so would like to have things working and some decent quality stuff in the room (no broken chairs, loose handknobs, superthin board walls and so on). My price range is 500-1500B

The other places in Isaan will have to wait till next time when I feel more like 'exploring'. Same for the other suggestions.
Thanks to all for the suggestions!

#12 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by Grubert on 5/3/2014 at 05:00

Not a fan at all of Mukdahan. Way too hectic and noisy, but then I again I stayed in the centre (plus I had earlier spent a couple of nights on the opposite bank in what is currently my favourite Laotian town).

If we're talking a town of Mukdahan's size then Nakhon Phanom deserves a look. It's got a leafy riverside promenade with excellent views of the Mekong and mountains beyond. There is also a lively restaurant/café scene and a smattering of colonial-era buildings (including a grandly restored governor's mansion).

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Posted by eastwest on 5/3/2014 at 06:10

Grubert, you've made a good case for Nakhon Phanom.
I do like your pictures and the ones I find on internet. Another plus is that I can fly to it and it apparently has a small golf course. I haven't played in years and a course like that could be fun as a curiosity.

Which hotel has the best views with the mountains in the distance?

Any other people who know both places and can advice?

#14 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by amnicoll on 5/3/2014 at 06:31

In addition to the places mentioned I would sugest Nan or Phayao in the North, Narathiwat or Satun in the deep south (yes before you say it I know it is not recommended but I have been there every year for about 2 weeks each time since the troubles began) and somewhere like Pratchup Kiri Khan

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Posted by somtam2000 on 5/3/2014 at 07:12 admin

I've been to Nakhon Phanom, but quite a few moons ago, Mukdahan more recently. NP is definitely the smaller of the two -- a very very slow town, but more pleasant than say Sakhon Nakhon, which is more of a hub for farmers to buy a new tractor... I preferred That Phanom which is about an hour away from memory, but the great guesthouse that used to be there has now closed apparently.

Mukdahan certainly busier, the riverfront scenes across to Tha Khaek though from NP very nice.

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Posted by Tilapia on 5/3/2014 at 08:27

I was recently in Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom , and That Phanom . Really enjoyed all of them.

The core area of Nakhon Phanom is pretty good. It's not a bustling place, and as Grubert said, the leafy area of the promenade is very nice. It's spread out along the river with most of the bigger places to stay a ways south on the river side of the road, but there are quite a few smaller places that seem to be more geared towards Thais on the city side of the promenade and closer to the centre of town. Some beautiful temples along the river. Quiet peaceful in the evenings. It's a nice place. You can read a bit more about it and see some more photos here ... https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=1&page_id=327182&v=3v

I think that if you stayed here for a while, it would be a good idea to rent a bike.

Just a little north of the city is a place called Tha Uthen, which also appeared to be a really nice place for what you're wanting (though the food may be an issue again ... it would be nearly all Thai and Laotian). It's mentioned in the link above. And if you keep reading, you see my entries about That Phanom and Muk. All good choices, I think.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 5/3/2014 at 08:45

I thought he just wanted to read books?

Prachuap is another cool place. Awesome seafood there. Krabi Town is pretty cool as well.

#18 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by eastwest on 5/3/2014 at 20:40

Yes, I will mainly read books but it's nice to break up the day with a few simple strolls or short excursions. Not looking for spectacular stuff.

Prachuap is/was on my back-up list. I was there some 20 years ago and loved it but want to try something different this time and also sort of afraid that it would turn out a disappointment after previous experience.

Can Nakhon Phanom, That Phanom and Mukdahan be easily combined in 10 days? Let's say I fly to NKP, spend a few days there and move on towards Muk and That Phanom and spend a few days in each town. Is the travel easy? If travel time on the bus is only 1-2 hours to next destinations it's worth considering for me.

#19 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 5/3/2014 at 20:52

10 days would plenty for those cities/towns. You could do 3 nights each. I went to Prachuap last year and it's still very laidback with few foreigners. Saw 10 tops in 3 days. 10 days would be too long for that town though.

Khong Chiam isn't far from Mukdahan so you could do that too. Maybe hire a car or bike for a day or 2 and hit the road. Easy driving out that way. Ubon is a cool small city too. Some nice temples and relaxed atmosphere.

I like your idea. Split the time between places so you don't get bored and those places are close enough to not be a hassle moving.

People are friendly and prices are cheap out in Issan. I think you will like it.

#20 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by eastwest on 5/3/2014 at 21:41

Ok, I will probably fly to Nakhon Phanom and take it from there.

Two more questions:
- Do the ATMs in those towns take international cards or are they just for local accounts (being such a rural area)? Just want to determine my money strategy
- Is there an easy way to get from Muk to BKK? I read that it's 12 hours on the bus and that is not my favorite type of travel. Are there alternatives such as train or plane? Or is there a pleasant town halfway (between Muk and BKK) to spend the night to break the trip into two? Or would people advice for any reason to bus to Muk first and fly out from Nakhon Phanom? I know, the last is personal but perhaps there is something I don't know which makes either direction the most logical choice

#21 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 5/3/2014 at 21:52

Surin is a nice town. Can visit phanom rung temple ruins from there too. Phimai also has ruins plus a good museum.

All major banks and atms accept international cards. Banks charge 150 baht per withdrawal now. They brought that in about 18 to 24 mths ago or so. For short stays under 3 weeks i just use cash. Cards for backup. Cards can get broken or damaged so arent fool proof.

Another option is to fly into nakhon and fly out of ubon. That saves a long bus trip. Saves back tracking too.

#22 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by MADMAC on 5/3/2014 at 22:22

"Can Nakhon Phanom, That Phanom and Mukdahan be easily combined in 10 days?"

Yes, easily. That Phanom is less than an hour from Mukdahan (50km) and NKP less than an hour from there (another 50km). I actually have ridden my motorcycle to NKP from Muk is 65 minutes.

I like NKP, hate the hotels there. Maybe I've just had bad luck on that score. It's definitely much smaller than Muk.

Funny you like Savankhet - I pretty much have grown to hate it. A dusty, dirty, atrophying version of Muk. Lousy nightlife, I don't like Laos food (although Dao Savan is a nice place), and crumbling infrastructure, beggars on the streets. Has an impoverished Mexico border city feel to it (minus the violence). My wife hates it even more than I do. To each his own.

#23 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Grubert on 5/3/2014 at 22:22

That stretch of the Mekong is easily traversed. A van ride from Mukdahan to Nakhon Phanom - with a stop in That Phanom - took a little over 90 minutes.

As lovely a town as Nakhon Phanom is, unless you're a Thai civil servant (the various ministries have their own guest lodgings facing the prettiest portion of the promenade) there isn't much in the way of riverside places to stay at. The Viewkong certainly has balconies facing the river as well as a decent-ish restaurant (pictured below) but is far removed (a good 20+ minutes walk) from everything else apart from a couple of late-night cafés peopled by the town's more affluent youths.

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The only other sleeping option that I can recall is a rather attractive-looking apartment located close, if not adjacent, to the Indochina Market. The area's nowhere as bustling as this may sound, however.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 5/3/2014 at 22:32

Phimai town itself is poor but the ruins and museum r good. Its only worth 1 night.

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Posted by Grubert on 5/3/2014 at 22:34

Totally agree with Leonard on Prachuap and Surin, btw. There's no question that Phanom Rung and that other nearby complex is stunning, but Phimai itself is boring as hell.

Madmac, I'm surprised you got that impression. I was there for the first time last October, in the period leading up to and during the Loy Krathong festival, and found it much to my liking. Lots of good eating options, both local and western. Granted, I'm a sucker for colonial architecture and as a result enjoyed wandering throughout the town. And I most certainly did not encounter any of the beggars you mentioned.

Eastwest, Nok Air offers a shuttle service to Mukdahan via Nakhon Phanom. Leonard's suggestion of flying out of Ubon is not bad either.

#26 Grubert has been a member since 21/2/2014. Posts: 57

Posted by Grubert on 5/3/2014 at 22:38

My mistake: the hotel I was referring to is the Mae Nam Khong Grand View and not the Viewkong.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 5/3/2014 at 23:11

Khon kaen has an airport too. Never been but madmac likes it.

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Posted by Tilapia on 6/3/2014 at 16:58

EW,

Mukdahan is only about 175 km from Ubon Ratchathani. You could take the night train to UR, arrive in the morning, then take a bus to Mukdahan and (probably) be there by lunchtime if you get to UR on schedule. You could also go to Khon Kaen or Udon Thani and then bus it from there, but each place is about an extra 100 km away. Plus, you'd probably land in KK before sunrise. For the train, UR is your most convenient bet.

Otherwise, as mentioned above, you could fly to NKP and get the shuttle. But if you're going to fly to NKP, you might as well spend a bit of time there, as well as in That Phanom . The temple in That Phanom is worth seeing.

Maybe fly to NKP and take buses south to UR, or train to UR then buses north and fly back to Bangkok from NKP.

If you do go to NKP, check out the oddly named Good Morning Vietnam & Coffee cafe. Excellent coffee, excellent spring rolls, and excellent wi-fi.

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Posted by DLuek on 6/3/2014 at 20:07 TF writer

Train to UR then buses north and fly back to Bangkok from NKP.

That's what I would do, or maybe fly to UR and also fly back from NKP. Flights are so cheap on Nok Air, but then, there's nothing more relaxing than swaying through the rice fields on a train.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 6/3/2014 at 20:15

I'd check out nok and air asia and see what times and prices are avail first. One direction maybe better than the other. Flight costs should be around $40 each way plus Don Muang Airport is the better airport to fly out of. I wouldnt bother with slow trains.

#31 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 6/3/2014 at 20:18

Air Asia have started flights to Khon Kaen too while Nok doesn't cover that route. Specials from 780 baht one way. AA also has a promo fare to Ubon for 555 baht which is a great price and incl taxes. Sale on now, prob due to protests.

#32 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by eastwest on 6/3/2014 at 20:55

Thanks guys.

I will probably opt for the train on the way up to UR. I like train rides but will do it during daytime and not take the night train to enjoy the view a little. Unless people tell me that the view from the train is hopeless (during daytime that is)..
But I will leave it till the last moment. I still have a few painful ribs from a bike accident so they will tell me which is the best way to travel...

#33 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 7/3/2014 at 01:05

Ive driven from bkk to ubon. Not much of a view. Views r better out near the mekong.

#34 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148

Posted by MADMAC on 7/3/2014 at 01:19

I would take the night train if I took the train at alll. But the option of flying to NKP is a good one. They've been running some great specials lately.

#35 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by eastwest on 7/3/2014 at 03:54

Yeah, I've looked it up and cost wise there is not much difference between plane or train. Just thought train might be a bit of fun if the scenery is nice but LC's comment hasn't made me very hopeful.

Is it also dry season in Issan at the moment? Cambodia is awfully dry and dusty at the moment and had there been a train running it wouldn't have been the best time to take a train ride here.

#36 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by Tilapia on 7/3/2014 at 08:22

I rode my bike through that area at around this time last year (late January), and the scenery was less than inspiring. Pretty dry and beige for the most part.

If you take a daytime train you'll have to leave pretty early from Bangkok (05:45) if you don't want to spend a night in UR. That train will get you, theoretically, into UR at 14:20. The next train will get you there at 18:00 (again, theoretically), and you will have to spend a night in UR. A night in UR is not a bad thing.

The UR Railway Station is actually in Warin Chamrap, south of UR on the south side of the Mun River. There's a songthaew (it might be #2) that connects with the UR Bus Terminal which is at the north end of UR, not too far from the airport.

I don't recommend eating at the food stalls outside of the UR Railway Station.

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Posted by MADMAC on 7/3/2014 at 11:22

It's pretty dry right now, yeah. If scenery is your reason for taking the train, fly.

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Posted by LeonardCohen1 on 7/3/2014 at 20:09

Dry as a dead dingo's donga

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