New Years in Yasothon

This New Years I was invited to the home of May and Jum, two sisters who work with Wan. They come from Yasothon, a province in north-eastern Thailand. I had a great time there, except for the time spent driving and feeling sick. Unfortunately that was about two-thirds of the entire long weekend. The first thing was getting there. Being a 5 day long weekend, there was going to be a lot of people on the roads. Having to work on Tuesday 30th of December, we left on Wednesday 31st (New Years Eve). There were two cars going (I was driving Wan and her friend Nee), although not driving together. We decided to leave early in the morning to avoid the heavy traffic. Unfortunately 5 million other Bangkokians had the same idea. We left Thammasat University at 5am and within 5 minutes of entering the main road (Pahonyothin, Highway Number 1) we encountered traffic jams (i.e. traffic stopped or travelling a mere 10kph). There was at least 4 lanes of traffic all the way, some times 6 lanes. It took us about 6 hours to travel the first 110 km's. The many petrol stations and food stops along the highway were full. After Saraburi (normally a 1 hour trip from Pathumthani, this time more than 5 hours) the traffic improved and we managed to get up to reasonable speeds of 80kph. We took the bypass around Khorat, staying on Highway 2 until slightly after the Phi Mai turn off, then made a right turn onto road 207. At this point the traffic lightened, although now we were on a single lane road. Traffic jams came in spurts, most often due to accidents, traffic lights or police check points. Police check points were setup in almost every small town. You also saw police stationed at major intersections. From what I saw, the police were not stopping people (e.g. for speeding), but rather there in preparation for accidents. Some of the check points also doubled as places were you could stop for a rest. I had the feeling there major focus was on safety, rather than collecting money from traffic infringements, which I thought was good. Including several food/toilet stops, we finally arrived in Yasothon at 6pm. A 13 hour trip. Not something that I had planned, and I probably wouldn't have done it if I knew it would be like this, but didn't have much choice once we got started. Because we were going so slow, the first 6 or 7 hours were in fact easy driving. But by the time I arrived in Yasothon, my right ankle/leg and bum was killing me. The others left Bangkok at 3am, but still hit the traffic and it took them also about 13 hours. Given the long day on the road, New Years Eve was not going to be big. After eating hot pot with all the family and having a few beers, I was in bed by 10pm! I was awoken at midnight by some very loud fireworks being set off nearby. I got up to see them for 5 minutes, and then hit the sack again. The next morning the extended family were up early for a trip to the local Wat to offer food to the monks. Then after breakfast we drove to Mukdahan, a town/province about 100km's from Yasothon and on the border with Laos. There we went to Phu Pha Thoep in the Mukdahan National Park. This was some rock formations which were nice to wander around for an hour or so. For lunch I had some delicious (and spicy) Som Tam and Laap Bplaa, as well as a local delicacy, Moo Yaw. After lunch the others were shopping in Mukdahan town, while Wan, Nee and I went for a drive further north to Kaeng Ka Bao, a popular spot on the Mekong River and the Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. We also stopped at a large Christian church - apparently Christianity is reasonably popular in this area, as well as the provinces north of Mukdahan. It was another long day, arriving back at Yasothon at 7pm. That night we headed to the Yasothon nightclub for some whiskey, live music and dancing. Early the next morning I wasn't feeling well. At first I thought it was the whiskey (although we didn't drink much, a bottle between 6 of us), but then I started firing at both ends. About 10am, Win drove me to the local hospital where I spent the day and night with a saline drip. The night in hospital and 4000 Baht for private room and medicine was well worth it. The next morning (Saturday) I felt fine, and in an attempt to avoid the traffic going back to Bangkok on Sunday, we left Yasothon about 11am. Another 13 hours drive though - this time the traffic was mostly between Yasothon and Khorat (from Khorat onwards it wasn't too bad). So overall, the things that I managed to do - Phu Pha Thoep, Kaeng Ka Bao, Friendship Bridge, disco - were good fun. Unfortunately too much time was spent in the car and hospital! Photo Gallery