Mick was at the Bus Station to see me off; that was really nice of him. Said our farewells to Mick and Khean and was soon on my way to Mukthahan just over the Mekong River from Laos. The journey wasn't much on interest; just one dull Thai town after another. I dozed for much of the journey; waking up in yet another dreary looking town at 12:15. There was no indication of where we were. A few people got off and more got onboard.
Just as it was about to leave, an attendant called that it was Mukthahan. I suddenly woke up and joined a couple of Irish guys (father an son it looked like) going to the ticket office. It was 50b over the bridge to Savannakhet. The bus as leaving at 12:30; so it was a 30 second dash to the waiting bus. It was a short drive to the Thai Immigration before the bridge. A speedy passport check and the bus was crossing the wide expanse of the Mekong River on the new bridge.
At the impressive Lao checkpoint I had to fill out the obligatory Visa application. It took about 10 mins then through with another form to the waiting bus. There was no customs check; our baggage was left in the bus.
The short drive to Savannakhet passed by small farms and neat Thai style villas to the bus station on the edge of town. I took a Jumbo; a bit like a large tuk tuk witj 2 long bench seats at the rear. My is choice of guest house The Sayansouk was full so tried the old Colonial guest house with a name I cannot remeber after a beer or 2
It was not a name to roll easily off the tongue (or brain cells).
The place is full of character and very much like a few old style Khmer Hotels I'd stayed at before. I looked at a few drab windowless rooms before finding one with a small window overlooking a courtyard. It wasn't the Ritz but for $8 for an aircon room with TV It was OK and full of the kind of old world character which is fast disappearing. No wi-fi or internet here; but there were some in town.
The lobby was pleasant and staff laid back and welcoming. I picked up a town map and looked at brochures for eco trekking tours. I took a wander about the neat streets with the faded colonial buildings. I had a snack at the Lao Paris restaurant which was an old shop house of such character that I want to take it back with me. It was nice having my omelette and chips with views of the Mekong River.
The tourist office was a wonderfully example to the Thais or anyone else with knowledgeable staff lots of well written information and a really professional set up. Thongsavath the Manager was very keen to give info on the short trekking options; He suggested that if I went tomorrow Tuesday I' would be able to experience a village celebration of the full moon as well as a home stay in one of the ethnic villages. I signed up so will save my tour of the town for another day.
Back at the gust house I heard some pretty neat guitar playing from the next room to the balcony where I was watching the rain. I introduced myself to Ben from somewhere north of London. He was in is 20s had been cycling round SE Asia; met a lovely girl here and has been in Savannakhet since March doing occasional teaching; mainly in Thailand.