This town is the end of the rail line that runs all the way through north-eastern Thailand and into Bangkok. Since Vientiene I had been traveling with an interesting American guy of Indian heritage, Sam. He was somewhat similar to me in our interest in not getting ripped off, and so walked from the train station in to town. Walking along the riverfront, we can across the truly lovely Mut Mee hostel. The hostel is beautiful, with great food, though a step up in cost from Laos. Tasteful, well-designed, well-informed staff and a delightful view and you could really get sucked in to hanging around here for a few days – making this your base for lazily exploring the surrounding areas. After a long walk in with Sam, we found this place for breakfast, and I stayed to finish some emails while he wandered to the markets.
By the end of the day, I came to conclude that the hostel may have been the only nice thing in town, thought I did not get the chance to explore some of the natural beauty and interesting sculptural parks that lay just a bicycle ride away.
A stroll along the gentrified foreshore was worth it for a lonely but impressive buddha-topped stupa. The rest of that walk was dominated by markets which were the most crap-filled I have come across yet. Just absolute rubbish – plastic, camouflaged, pastel-coloured, fake wood crap. It really disturbed me as I presumably had entered the parts of SE Asia where any trace of the cultural influence on what you can buy is getting pretty hard to discern. But still, relative to Australia, a veritable cultural treasure trove perhaps?