Exploring Isaan

 

Honestly, the only point of today’s blogpost is it to make you really jealous of my trip around Isaan last weekend. Prepare yourself for lots of pictures and hyperboles.

Ubon Ratchathani is situated in Isaan (pronounced like “Ee-sahn”), the northeastern region of Thailand, snuggled right up against Cambodia and Laos. It’s supposed to be the least touristy of all the regions, perhaps due to it having no ocean beaches and the like.

Before last weekend, I figured I knew why it was the least explored by tourists. All I had seen of this place was the UBU campus, which is wide and flat, and the delicious twisty fried bread that is served with coffee in town (but why not on campus, WHYYYY?).

Seriously want/need these in my life.

My eyes have since been opened.

It was only a small part of this huge geographical region, but with the help of two student guides and a friendly van driver, 6 semi-bored ajarns got to walk across a scary bridge, see some 3,000 year old cliff paintings and play in waterfalls hidden in a stony mountain.

Friday morning was filled with a tour of the local temples getting ready for the upcoming candle festival, but those deserve their own blogpost, so check back for that later. That afternoon, the real journey began. Ai, Brandon, Jay, Pamela, Julia, and I left campus in a celebrity-sized air conditioned van accompanied by our two guides and our driver.

Jay’s two students planned an easy introductory day into our travel. First they took us to a cave temple near to our destination. It’s traditional custom to stop at a temple at the start of your travels and ask for a blessing.

No, not a real elephant ūüė¶

Afterwards, they took us to Kaeng Tana national park next to the Mekong river where we defied death by tiptoeing onto Thailand’s longest (and scariest) suspension bridge… With the missing planks and rotting wood, we did not get very far before scurrying back to solid land.

Say hi to Laos in the background!

Say hi to vertigo and the promise of a painful death beneath your feet!

One of our awesome guides leading us back from the bridge

Then, after gathering supplies for the best Thai barbeque ever, we settled into our homes for the night, these lovely bungalows settled beside the river.

Imagine a cow mooing to your left and the gentle flow of the Mekong river beyond those trees far below a cliff. Try to ignore the raging mosquitoes and the sweltering 5 pm heat. There, now it’s perfect.

The next morning, a bright and early 5:30 am after a late night of eating, singing, and general revelry with the students and driver, we drove to these giant mushroom rocks in Pha Taem national park.

Then we drove to this cliff:

walked down here:
         

to see these cliff paintings:

Seriously
Amazing.
Most of the crew, minus Ai

Next up, we took a casual hike to some river-fed-waterfalls nestled in a stony mountain. Perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve seen so far in Thailand.

Where else can you shower under a waterfall?

And have epic water fights:

 

 

    Lounge in a personal pool?
And jump off a miniature waterfall?

Repeatedly?

SPLASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Afterwards, some sleepy ajarns and tour guides drove out to the perfect place for a nap: on a floating restaurant.


We dined on good food and sprawled out on our woven mats in the hot afternoon air.

Ai, Pamela, and Julia getting comfy.
Spreading out.
The Lotto man posing for a picture.
¬†The beginning of our meal. Never trust a Thai person when they tell you what you’re about to eat isn’t spicy.

 

To any vegetarians reading, I apologize in advance, but this stuff is seriously too good not to have pictures of:
   <РThe best chicken I have ever eaten.
This fish was ¬†ridiculously perfect. –>

<—¬†Spicy shrimp to cleanse the nostrils.

And these bugs?….. ——–>

Gross, no. That’s a whole different story. I get that Brandon is adventurous and likes to try new crunchy things. And I’ve heard that insects are the most renewable source of protein in the world and as the global ¬†population grows, we need to start embracing them as a viable food source. And I completely respect that these are a delicious snack in Thailand but…

Ugh, no. Not if I can help it. Besides, they’re practically my namesake.

 

¬†Julia: “Ew.” ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Brandon: “Any takers?”
Floating icecream refreshments…
Our driver deserved a rest.

We ended the day at this little market, where we filled up on dried fruit and yam chips and perused traditional Thai fashions.

All in all, an awesome two days.

Aw, we were pretty tuckered out.

 

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