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Nong Khai and its Sculpture Park

Nong Khai is located directly over the border from Laos to Thailand near Vientiane. Apart from being a stop over on the way to or from Laos, it has a nice sculpture park to visit. Here we will stay a few nights before we return to Bangkok, where our tickets to Istanbul will be waiting for us, to continue our world journey.

Sculpture Park in Nong Khai

A tuktuk brings us from Vientiane to the Friendship bridge, the bordercrossing between Laos and Thailand. God knows why this bridge is built with a contribution from Australia, must have been a friendship gesture. After getting our passport stamped in Laos, we hop on the bus that brings us to the other side, for a Thai stamp. A tuktuk brings us further, to the city of Nong kHai a few kilometres further. Here we find Mut Mee, a guesthouse with lovely huts in a beautiful garden along the Mekong river. They give us information about the city, and after a meal we rent a bike to explore.

Sculpture Park

After buying train tickets to Bangkok for the next day, we move on to Sala Kaekwoo, a sculpture park near the city. We have a little trouble finding it, but when we arrive, we buy a ticket and our mouths fall open. Beautiful large statues are positioned in a large garden. Some are over 30 meters high. They are all figures from the Buddha and Hindu mythology. A deceased artist created them, according to his own words guided by an under earthly go he met by coincidence.

Prime piece of work in the garden is the circle of life. It's a collection of statues showing the stages in a lifetime. Via an opening (the vagina) we step inside as a sperm cell. After that, statues are depicting the conception, child years, adulthood, marriage, adultery, old age, and death. Eventually, it ends at the beginning, unless you can break the circle by becoming a Buddha, in which case you enter Nirvana.

Feeding Fish

Feeding fish in Nong Khai Sculpture ParkAt the sculpture park is also a pond where we can feed the fish. The fish are giant cat fish, in some cases over a meter long. The are crawling over each other to catch some of the food we give them. After this, we walk the wrong way, but we return when we see a snake guarding the path. We pick up our bikes and return to Mut Mee.

In the evening we try to join a tour over the Mekong River. Unfortunately, the engine is broken so it is cancelled. Instead, we spend the evening in the garden where we are bitten by the mosquitos.

The morning before out departure to Bangkok we spend shopping in Nong khai. There are a lot of beggars on the local market, while there are little or no tourists. The most money the get from the locals, inspired by Buddhism. The shops are also geared towards the locals, although we manage to buy a T-shirt.

Train to Bangkok

We relax some more at our guesthouse, and after a tropical shower a tuktuk brings us to the train station. There we witness the singing of the Thai national anthem. At 18.00 PM this is done in all public buildings. Every Thai stands up and sings along, pretty impressive. The train ride is not very special, we can sleep well, and arrive at 7 AM in Bangkok, where the brus brings us back to the Khao San Road area, where we take a room in our favourite guesthouse, the rooftop garden.

Bad luck

After a short sleep, we go to get our tickets to Istanbul. But, no such luck. It appears that Singapore airlines will only sell us a ticket, if we also have ticket FROM Istanbul. But we haven't got that, which the travel agent should have known. We get angry, demand our money back and leave without a ticket.

The rest of the day we spend searching for an alternative. We try to get a ticket to Istanbul, but the travel agents keep telling us that we have to move on to Amsterdam for that. But we do not want to go to Amsterdam. They tell us that moving on to Amsterdam is cheaper than staying in Istanbul. But we do not want to go to Amsterdam!!. Frustrated with the airlines we leave the agencies with an option for an expensive ticket to Istanbul. We can only confirm it the next morning, since the airlines are closed on Sunday.

A better plan to continue our World Journey

But then, once we are on a terrace with a beer, we start wandering. We realise that in our home town the annual festivities start today. That, combined with the knowledge that a ticket to Amsterdam is cheaper than anything else, gives our thoughts a completely different direction. Since we have to fly anyway, why don't we fly home for the festivities, and start a second overland journey from there?

Our last night in Bangkok and Southeast Asia is typical. We meet other travellers we saw earlier on our trip, drink beer with them while we exchange stories. The following day, we arrange the tickets to Amsterdam, and at 15.00 hours, we are in the plane to AmsterdamÂ…

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