Mukdahan to Ubon Ratchathani
There will always be discussion if North East Thailand is worth the effort to visit. Personally I think it's a good area to cycle. But that said, there isn't a lot of exciting sights to visit. And some I have not even seen too.
My first visit to north east Thailand was in 1991, by bus when I visited Kalasin, Khon Kaen and Mukdahan. Some years later I cycled in the north east from Aranyaphratet at the Cambodian border to Surin and Ubon Ratchathani and Laos. Early December 2011 I was back in Mukdahan.
National Parks: Thap Lan National Park and Khao Yai near Ubon Ratchathani.
While Savannakhet in Laos is Mukdahan's twin sister town, and in size much bigger, it's Mukdahan which is much busier. Mukdahan is also the largest and busiest city in this whole region of north east Thailand.
I had made the mistake to cross the border into north east Thailand by using the Second Friendship Bridge. It was a mistake because the bridge is cars/trucks/buses only. To cross I had to drop my bicycle on a pickup truck to reach the other side.
In 20 years a lot of things can change. My memories of Mukdahan are a bit murky. At the time, you couldn't cross into Laos without having a visa and I remember looking at Laos which was at the time as out of reach as the moon.
Times have changed. Even the hotels are much nicer now. The town itself has not a lot to stay for long. I arrived on a Sunday when it was market at the riverside. But apart of that, there was little to make someone want to stay here too long.
I left the next morning for a 2 day ride to Ubon Ratchathani, 180 km away. There are not a lot of roads here to use unless you want to make a lot of kilometers so I decided to take the main road, which looked like a highway. Fortunately there was hardly any traffic, for almost all the 180km.
The 212 was for the most flat and I went quickly (with tailwind it was really easy). The idea was to stay a night in Amnat Charoen, a little town about halfway with several hotels just outside the town center on the road to Yasothon.
Amnat Charoen has very little excitement to enjoy except a beautiful golden Buddha in a park a few 100 meters before the main crossroads in the town.
The road from Amnat Charoen to Ubon Ratchathani is more of the same flat lands with little to see and plenty of time of inner reflections.
I had to take the train back to Bangkok, as there were some problems with my crank. So I crossed Ubon to Warin Chamrap, on the south side of the river that separates Ubon Ratchathani with Warin Chamrap.
The central part of Ubon Ratchathani is not unpleasant with a big park, some temples and a museum. Should you want to stay in Ubon, there's plenty of hotels along the main street, but if you take a train, you might want to stay near the railway station in Warin Chamrap.
Is this part of north east Thailand worth the effort of cycling? Put it this way, if you come from Laos and you have to go to Bangkok, this is a nice and easy intermezzo. However, there are nicer roads to cycle, even from Ubon to Si Sa Ket and Surin is more interesting because there are some old ruins along the road.
What rested me was finding the railway station and go to Bangkok. With problems of my crank it was not advised to cycle to Bangkok, which would probably took me a week or so. This road however is nice enough and interesting enough. My journey through this part of north east Thailand however, had finished for this time.
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One of the must visit sites in north east Thailand is Phimai Historical Park where you can see one of the best preserved and largest Khmer complexes in the country.
Cycling in Thailand
Of all Asian countries Thailand is probably one of the easiest, if not the easiest of all to start a bicycle adventure.
With plenty of people speaking English, good food, spectacular sights, beaches, diving, good weather, bicycle shops available and people used to "crazy" foreigner on bicycle, Thailand has "it"
Savannakhet, the twin sister city of Mukdahan and entry point for cycling into Laos.
Khorat to Surin via Buri Ram, Phanom Rung and Muang Tam
An interesting route to cycle which lead to Phanom Rung, a Khmer complex that easily rivals some of the best temples in Angkor.