Friday, February 15, 2013


I've spent the last couple of days in Ubon Ratchathani, one of Thailand's easternmost cities, hanging out with the little sis.  I'm so glad I went.  The whole place was very chill.  There is development and signs of big changes coming (for example, a very fancy mall is being built and prices are steadily increasing) but for now there is still a really relaxed vibe that flows through nearly every aspect of life there.  Just after a day or two, I was completely in love.

Very few tourists go to Ubon, so my sister and I generated looks everywhere we went as we jabbered in English.  I took a late night flight out of Hong Kong on Friday and then the first flight out to Ubon on Nok Air on Saturday morning. When my taxi driver in Bangkok asked where I was flying to (he guessed the typical touristy places, like Phuket, Chiang Mai) and I responded "Ubon," he did a double take and asked me excitedly, "Are you Thai?!"

Like many things in Thailand, the airplane was uber-colorful:
 We were the only airplane at the airport that morning.  Everyone just walks into the airport.
Immediately upon landing, I was greeted by my sister with a bag of tiny clementines and then whisked to her apartment.  After resting up and cleaning up, we headed out for a very full day.  The first stop was at a vegan restaurant in town, which served a buffet of rice, curries, drinks and snacks (kanom) - all you can pile on one plate for 50 cents!  We also got fresh soy milk, banana chips, and fried seaweed.  Everything was delicious. 

Stuffed full, we then headed on the road to Sam Pan Bok (it means "3000 holes" in Thai).  At first when my sister and her co-workers (teachers at her school) described it, I pictured one really big rock with three thousand little holes all over it.  So when they said it was very beautiful, I had my doubts but kept it to myself.  When we arrived, I was so happy I hadn't said anything!  Because it's actually an entire landscape (more accurately, riverbed) of holes.  The holes are created due to the change in water levels in the Khong River between the dry and wet seasons.  Because we were there during the dry season, we were able to see all of the eroded rock, created over thousands of years of water flow.

It is a very cool landscape:

We then took a little boat ride up and down the river:
 The Khong river is the border between Laos and Thailand.  So on one side, we had Thailand:
 And on the other, we had Laos:
 Pretty cool huh??

After some peaceful puttering, we pulled up to a beach --

And walked up a sandy hill --

 Past some big rocks --
 Over more holes filled with water.

There was also mud, which had dried into huge, caked bricks:
After hiking around some more, we ended up at "the swimming pool," which was one of the largest holes, reportedly 10 meters deep.  It was such a hot day that I wanted nothing more than to dive in and go for an icy, refreshing swim.  

Here my sister is dipping her feet:

We then had a late lunch at a local restaurant overlooking Sam Pan Bok.  I had the tastiest, spiciest "mild" papaya salad I'd ever had, as well as a couple of plates of fresh river fish, cooked in different styles.  Isaan province, where Ubon is located, has the spiciest fare of all of Thailand.  On this trip every meal consisted of multiple dishes dotted with chili flakes and telltale slivers of red chili peppers.  I joked that it's pretty much unnecessary to wear lip gloss or lipstick in Ubon, because the spicy food will plump up and redden your lips pronto.
At night, we went to a new nightmarket where they sold a lot of trinkets and clothes:

 We then finished it all with dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant.  All in all, it was a very action packed first day, and I loved every minute of it.

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