. We take a shard skylab into town and are dropped off at the Southida Guest House where we stayed before. We check-in to a huge room with two balconies, one with a river view (just!), chairs and a table and a large and comfortable bed. We rest for a while and finish our baguettes with a belated coffee. It is another hot day and when we go out at 11:30 the sun is baking. Walk down to the river and look over to Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, where we will be heading tomorrow. We cut through a side street to a noodle shop where we enjoyed the food last time we were here. It is not yet midday and they are just closing up so we have to walk around a while to find another and enjoy the food here just as much. We walk around for about an hour an end up at the ferry terminal where we make a few enquiries about a departure tomorrow morning. Bad news is thjat farangs are no longer allowed to cross the river by ferry here since the opening 5 months ago of a new river bridge about 10km outside of town. Using the ferry before it finished was one of the reasons we chose to return Tha Khaek to Nakhon Phanom so I am a little disappointed. Instead of walking to the ferry, 10 minutes across the Mekhong, then walking a few hundred yards to our next hotel we now have a marathon to endure. Skylab to bus station, bus to the border, bus over the bridge, bus to Nakhon Phanom then a tuk-tuk to out next hotel - progress ?!!! Back to the room and the very welcome aircon. About 15:30 and after Liverpool 0v0 Newcastle on TV we go outside again
. Every skylab we approach wants 100,000 Kip to take us to the temple that I want to visit so we pretty much give up as this is more than twice as much as I think fair for the trip out of town. We walk away from the river towards town and I stop another skylab who is quite happy totake us for 40,000 which is far more reasonable. We drive out of town for about 15 minutes before we reach Pha That Sikhottabong. I know that there is a large festival here each February but didnt know that it had already started and in fact that today was the last day. The place is heaving in people with foodstalls everywhere, a market and a fairground to attract people apart from the stupa itself. Jai buys some flowers to make an offering but as we climb up to the stupa she is stopped because she is wearing trousers and we have to go and hire a patu, a Lao wrap around skirt, before we can enter the stupa courtyard. My shorts are fine ? She has made offerings at That Phanom across the river in Thailand a couple of times but has never been to this one before so she is pleased with the opportunity. We return the patu then set out through the crowds for a look around. There are stages and endless seats set out everywhere for morlam music shows tonight and Jai is tempted to come back but I tell her that I cant face it so she would have tocome alone and that seals her decision. We skylab back to Tha Khaek and walk down to the river for a cocktail and a couple of BeerLaos watching the sun set over Nakhon Phanom opposite. We buy food from an old couple with a small stall and enjoy freshlyfried fish, somtam (pappaya salad) and sticky rice washed down by my last BeerLaos for a year. It is 20:30 when we get back to the room so a really late night for me today !
Up with the alarm at 6:00 and check out quickly. Take a skylab right outside the guest house so that I dont have to carry bags again and then stop en-route to the bus station for a couple of ham and egg baguettes for breakfast. The price of the ticket from Savannakhet to Tha Khaek has gone up but fortunately a bus is just about to leave as we arrive at the station so no waiting around. BY 6:45 we are on our way north slowly picking up passengers every few hundred yards for the first few miles. About 40mins later we reach a small town where the bus stops for an inexplicable half hour. It did this the last time we travelled this route as well so for some reason it must be scheduled. Previously the bus had been taken over by ladies selling food but this time they are not allowed to enter the bus and have to contect themselves with knocking on the windows and trying to tempt passengers to get off. Jai couldnt resist a sticky rice fix with some grilled chicken !! We leave and although you could bever say that we were speeding along we seemed to make good time on the dodgy roads and arrived at the bus station outside Tha Khaek about 10am