"Along the twisting Mekong
River, 140 km east of Nong Khai, is the tiny town of Bueng Kan.
Once you've been to Bueng Kan, you'll never be the same. You'll be
a person who's already been to Bueng Kan."
Approach my comment philosophically. Heraclitus said you
could never step into the same river twice, for the river is always
composed of new waters. Think of yourself as that river and Bueng
Kan as some of that new water flowing into it.
Unless you meet your future wife or stumble upon a buried treasure in
Bueng Kan, how can I kid you that a trip here is a must do experience in
your life? 99.99999999% of humanity will never ever set foot
here or ever hear of it and will be none the worse off.
Tranquil life in the
tiny, tiny, tiny town of Bueng Kan
why did I go? I was motorbiking alongside the Thai
side of the Mekong River, and Bueng Kan is one of the towns
located there. You have to pass through it.
It's a small town, and it has its charms if you're here for
a night or two. Other Thais seem to enjoy it. As
I stood along the waterfront
shooting a movie, I noticed quite a few Thais from other
places in the country enjoying a brew and reveling in the
Mekong breezes breezed up especially for Bueng Kan.
Standing along the river, you can see the Lao province of
Bolikhamsai and its capital Pakxan on the other side.
Thais and Laotians are permitted to skip across this river
as if there were no border, but you can't. You'll need
a visa for Laos, and as of this writing, Laos offers no
multiple entry visas. Every time you enter Laos,
you'll need to flash a fresh USD 35. When you
return, you'll need a fresh visa for Thailand.
This arrangement makes a mockery of the idea of freedom of
travel. There might be an opportunity here for Apple
to sell a Thai and Laos visa combo on iTunes along with
specially selected musical tracks.
Bueng Kan attractions: on
left, the Sumran Hotel delivered the goods for less
than USD 12 a night. On right, the town may be
tiny, but there's still a sushi bar.
There is nothing of must-see tourist attraction in Bueng Kan, which doesn't mean it's not a pleasant town to relax for a day
or two. If the town were filled with world class sights, it wouldn't the same sleepy place that it is. Surprisingly, for a town
of this size, it boasts a
vegetarian restaurant for those on special diets and a sushi bar alongside the waterfront, run by a Thai
man who spent 4 years working at sushi restaurants in Florida.
Accommodation is affordable, and good times are there to be grasped.
A highlight of the region only 45 km away is Wat Phuthok, a temple
constructed into the side of a mountain, a place for Buddhists to
contemplate in Isaan since 1974. Buddhists who make the walk up
regularly are in great shape, as Doug will attest in
this outstanding movie. Signs to Si Wilai are clearly
signposted leaving Bueng Kan. Good luck reading the Thai to
get the rest of the way.
Wat Phu Thok:
(left) Phu Thok carved into rock in the far
distance and (right), walkways around Phu Thok.