It was with some relief that we crossed the Laos border and re-entered Thailand. We had decided for some reason that we were going to pay another visit to Laos, this time entering through Pakse into the southern part of the country. As a distinct lack of ready cash had made a visit into Thailand a necessity, it seemed to make good sense to travel through a small section of North Eastern Thailand, and to see some areas that were not on the well trodden tourist route.
With this in mind we made our way to Khorat first and then on to Ubon Ratchathani.
When talking about the cities themselves there is not really an awful lot to say. Whilst Khorat and Ubon are some of the largest cities in Thailand, they do not have any particular historical landmarks, nor are they especially beautiful. However, they were interesting to visit as they felt more 'local' and less western than places like Bangkok or Chiang Mai.
On our first night in Khorat we found ourselves a little restaurant that was absolutely packed. As the only westerners there we were treated like minor royalty for the evening.
As the night progressed we were increasingly swamped by red roses bought for us (Sophie and I mostly though on some occasions, for Chris) by various smitten old men, and towards the end of the evening we were invited out for a ride in one of their old bright yellow convertible mercedes - how could such an opportunity be passed by? Unfortunately we were not aware that we were being taken to another local restaurant where we would be required to sample such Thai delicacies as Salted egg (quite disgusting, verging on the inedible), and garlic watergreens (didn't leave us the most sociable people in the world, but they were very tasty and have since become a favourite dish) Throughout the meal the three of us sat wondering whether we technically counted as the richest people at the table and would therefore be expected to foot the entire bill - not a thought that we relished. However it seems that that priviledge was to go to another member of the group.
The next night having spent the day wandering round the city and being stared at (the down side to being the only white people in the area) we decided to risk going back to the same restaurant - we hoped that we would not bump into the same people as the night before as one of the men had become rather too fond of Sophie, and she found him gazing at her disconcerting!
However instead of men with nice cars, this night was the "noodle night". Some very nice men on the table behind us took it upon themselves to feed us up on the local speciality - green noodles with garlic. Unfortunately we had just finished our own meals and were in no state to eat again, but not wishing to be rude we presevered and ate the plate of noodles with good grace. Unfortunately seeing that we had finished the plate, and therefore obviously liked them, they sent us over another plate of the same. We were distraught! Not wishing to be rude but there was no way that we could eat even one more mouthful of the stuff. So after some deliberation and a few false starts we managed to get a system going where by we filled paper napkins with the cursed noodles and put them in Sophie's bag, to be disposed of later. Whilst we got a few strange looks off the waiting staff, we would like to believe that the 2 men did honestly believe to this day that we ate the lot.
Ubon was similar in many ways to Khorat, and again our time seemed to be mostly spent in sourcing out little restaurants, eating and making an impression on the locals. From the way they stared at us we could tell that they thought we were the strangest things they'd ever seen, and when we were around their conversations were entirely punctuated with the word farang (meaning foreigner!)
The dish of the area (Ubon especially) was grilled chicken with sticky rice and spicy papaya salad - In this case spicey meant mind blowing fire (10 chillies per dish at least) but it was really tasty, and comes highly recommended.
Whilst in total we only spent a couple of days in each of the two cities, it was nice to get a brief impression of the area. We found it to be very different from the other parts of Thailand that we had previously visited, and thus well worth the time we spent there.