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Four Days In Savannakhet

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My trip to Savannakhet wasn’t supposed to happen until late June, early July but Thai bureaucracy and my laid back attitude to life meant I had to bring it forward, in a hurry.

Lets rewind back to May 21st, the day my extension of stay expires, and I’m sat in front of the immigration officer at Chaengwattana who was not in a friendly mood. I’d been here many times before doing the exact same thing so I sat quietly just watching her shuffle the paperwork around.

She then asks my missus where is this, that and that? After some back and forth I chime in and ask old Frosty Knickers what the problem is. She replies in Thai to my missus. Oh, okay.

It turns out she was asking for three additional documents I’d never been asked to provide before. Her suggestion was I overstay and return with them the following day.

Not gonna happen.

Firstly, I wouldn’t trust the old bag as far as I could throw her – she was around 90kgs, so not very far. Secondly two of the three docs I just couldn’t get within a day or two if I could get them at all.

Fuck it, stamp my extension was refused and hit me with 7 days to leave. And that’s what she did.

7 days to leave

And so my trip to Savannakhet to apply for a new visa was in the diary for sometime in the next week. A rather busy diary. Work commitments, two meetings plus the football tournament over the weekend with Stickboy FC meant I’d be leaving on Monday 28th May.

A flight with Nok Air to fly out Monday morning with a return trip using Air Asia on Wednesday evening were both booked and paid for. A quick scan of the interwebs to find a hotel which was booked within the hour. Job done.

It wasn’t until a few days later a light went off in my head. Foooook. Tuesday was Visakha Bucha Day meaning the Thai Consulate in Savannakhet would be closed.

Some quick thinking came up with no solutions. I had to leave Monday and so an extra night in sleepy Savannakhet was on the cards. My heart sank at the thought of it.

I’ve been twice before and couldn’t wait to leave. After a couple of hours you’ve pretty much seen it all unless you are into gambling and want to spend hours in the casino. That has no appeal to me… I was dreading the trip but it had to be done.

6 28am

I wake early Monday full of the joys of spring, not.

The trip to the airport, the flight to Ubon and the bus up to Mukdahan were all uneventful, as was the hop across the border into Laos.

It was eerily quiet though as we stood waiting for the bus across the bridge. On my last visit the place was packed.

waiting for the bus across the bridge

waiting for the bus across the bridge

Once through border control on the other side we sorted a tuk tuk to the hotel I’d randomly found online. I assumed, wrongly, all these drivers would know 99% of hotels and guesthouses as the place isn’t exactly big.

As you may have already guessed, our chauffeur had no idea where it was or where he was going and so we went on an unscheduled tour of the town for the next 45 minutes only to realise when we did find it we’d been 10m away from the place half an hour before.

Vivanouk Homestay

Vivanouk Homestay is a guesthouse with a difference and to be honest when I booked it I thought it was just your run-of-the-mill type of place but it is quite the opposite.

This three bedroom guesthouse is run by Nicco, a friendly and welcoming Frenchman who immediately makes you feel at home upon arriving.

He explains guests are made to feel at home in his home and it really is that sort of place. Normally not what I’d go for but what the hell.

Me and Mrs Stick were the only two guests for the first two nights, yes, I immediately asked could I extend my stay for one more night due to my oversight with the closed consulate.

It was $35 a night for the largest room with AC and Nicco suggested we make ourselves at home so off we went upstairs… for a look round and a nap.

Vivanouk Bedroom

Vivanouk Bedroom

One thing that some might be put off by is the three rooms share two spotless bathrooms, there’s no en suite in any of the rooms.

On the plus side, one of bathrooms is outdoor meaning you can shower, or shag, under the stars.

Vivanouk Shower Under The Stars

After a couple of hours shuteye it was time for a wander and a feed.

Vivanouk is a stone’s throw away from the night market and that’s what the missus had her belly set on. Some spicy somtam.

Savannakhet Night Market

The market was pretty busy with mainly a young crowd chowing down on whatever the 20 or 30 stalls were knocking up.

Night Market Savannakhet

This isn’t a travel blog and I have no interest in food so here’s a few photos of what the missus bought from the biggest, and most popular, somtam stall.

Night Market Savannakhet

Night Market Savannakhet

Night Market Savannakhet

Belly full and time for a wander before a night cap at the bar on the corner with the live music.

There’s not a lot goes on after dark in Savannakhet with the streets pretty quiet from 9pm onward and dead by 10.30pm. I’ve walked around many a night and always felt safe. Lots of dogs but all bark and no bite. I just ignore them and walk on by.

Beer at Laochaleun Bar

I’d walked enough so time to head to Laochaleun Bar for a beer or two… and a bucket.

Big bottles of Beerlao were 10,000 kip / 38 baht. Bucket of ice was 20 baht (ish)

Beer at Laochaleun Bar

Beer at Laochaleun Bar

It is of course a jug, not a bucket but who am I to argue with the menu? (35,000 kip / 135 baht)

Beer at Laochaleun Bar

Beer at Laochaleun Bar

There was about 30 odd people in the bar and not a single phone, other than mine, to be seen.

It made a nice change to see people actaully talking to each other instead of sat with their face in a phone all night.

Beer at Laochaleun Bar

Midnight closing and home to bed. And no there was no shagging in the shower under the stars. Time for a trade-in? 555+

I slept like a log and wakened at late o’clock. It was Tuesday and I had nothing to do other than get a good nights sleep for an early start on Wednesday. So I spent the afternoon doing not a lot other than snooze and smoke.

FYI, the rooms at Vivanouk are non-smoking but there is a nice outdoor area to chill and have a puff in peace and quiet.

Vivanouk smoking area

smoking area

Nicco being the fine host that he is, brewed me up a pot of coffee on the house and I parked my arse outside to watch the world go by after keeping him back from his work chit chatting about nothing in particular for 30 minutes.

quick coffee

By this time it was early afternoon and I only one thing on my mind. A power nap,

Zed head was awakened by a rain storm that came battering down. It lasted a couple of hours but we were only going to the restaurant next door for dinner so no biggie.

Back to bed for an hour.

Rain In Savannakhet

By the time we wakened, showered and dressed it was still raining a little but we were off for dinner at Dao Savanh, a well-known French place right next door to where we were staying.

Now reading online reviews in the likes of Lonely Planet and Travelfish you’d think this place was a five star establishment. Yes, the food was good but that’s where it ends for me.

The restaurant is a miserable looking affair that has seen better days, far better. Horrible lighting, no background music, staff wearing casual clothes… not the fine dining experience the travel bloggers would lead you to believe. Anything but.

Dao Savanh

Dao Savanh

Dao Savanh

Dao Savanh

The food was good and inexpensive but we were out of there as soon as we’d finished as it wasn’t somewhere you’d want to be any longer than you had to be.

A 30 minute stroll before a quick nightcap at Laochaleun Bar and an early night.

Four Days In Savannakhet

I’d booked a passing tuk tuk driver to collect us on Wednesday morning at 8.30am. He arrived on the dot and off we went to the Thai Consulate to apply for my new visa.

A coffee at the small shop on the opposite side of the road was the order of the day as the photocopy guy done the business with my papers and filled in my application form.

Why take the time messing around yourself when he does it all for just 100 baht? Hassle free and everything you need all sorted out while you sit back. Money well spent in Stick’s book.

There were around 20 odd people queuing in the blazing sun. Forget that carry on. I waited until the doors opened before joining the queue and was back at the guesthouse by 10.15am.

An afternoon to kill with some sleeping, cycling, stuffing my face and not much else really…

Cycling in savannakhet

Cycling in savannakhet

Cycling in savannakhet

Cycling in savannakhet

Cycling in savannakhet

Cycling in savannakhet

Cycling in savannakhet

Cycling in savannakhet

All that pedaling around in the afternoon sun makes a man hot and hungry…

Another popular spot listed on every travel site covering Suvannakhet is Lin’s Cafe. Nice food, place full of bloody flies.

Rushing your food before a fly lands in it isn’t a pleasant dining experience.

Lins Cafe

Lins Cafe

Lins Cafe

Home, shower, sleep and then out for a walk and a few refreshments.

Check out is midday so no hurry in the morning and the consulate doesn’t open until 2pm for passport collections with tuk tuk man booked for 1.30pm.

Off we go and I soon decide that more beers at the same bar we’ve been in for the past two nights sounds boring. The other bar down the road has the music blasting so loud you wouldn’t be able to hear yourself think never mind talk. Adding, the singer was dire too.

So as we walked around and the sight of a bright bar, with music and customers sat right there before me… I’m thinking winner.

This Old House is calling…

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Yeah we got some looks when we went in but then everyone went back to talking and drinking with their groups.

Beer pretties were on duty too which was a nice surprise. Friendly sorts too.

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Beers all round tonight and no silly buckets of piss…

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Duck bills and roast port to soak up the sauce…

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Not a bad chanter with the guitar.. Laos, Thai and a bit of Maroon 5.

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

The beer was going down well and more snacks needed to soak it up…

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Then the skies opened up again and we had to move to an area of the bar that was covered with a roof.

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Miss Jee, our hostess with the mostess. Lovely lass and very helpful despite not being as hot as the cheer beer babes who’d been topping up my glass all night.

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Some bathroom art in This Old House…

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Last orders had been called but the rain was back and I really wasn’t for getting wet. The staff were cool letting us sit finishing our drinks waiting for it to go off but mother nature had other ideas. Get The Stick’s wet.

This Old House Bar Savannakhet

Thankfully it turned out we were only three streets down from the guesthouse so not too bad considering we thought it was at least a 20 minute walk.

time to leave savvanakhet

My plan was to wake in the morning and go buy some bread to take home. The missus was fannying about at the salon across the street and I decided bed was the best place for me to be.

Showered and packed by midday and off out for a coffee and cake to kill time until 1.30pm when tuk tuk man would take us back to the consulate to collect my passport then on down to the bridge for the bus back over to Thailand.

coffee and cake savannakhet

coffee and cake savannakhet

All went smoothly and we reached Mukdahan bus station around 3.30pm. The bus down to Ubon was due at 4pm and was only picking up passengers so no sitting around.

Mukdahan Bus Station

Now, keep in mind I’ve no plane ticket back to Bangkok so my hope is to catch either the 7.40pm or 7.50pm flights from Air Asia or Thai Smile. Failing that the last flight out is with Nok Air at 8.50pm. The missus for some reason had her knickers in a twist about all this but no point in thinking or worrying about it.

My thinking is just wait and see…

Minibus Mukdahan to UUbon

Minibus Mukdahan to UUbon

The transport turns out to be a minibus and it was pretty comfy for the price. 110 baht. Plenty of legroom and the driver was sticking to the speed limit.

We arrived at Ubon airport around 6.30pm giving us plenty of time to catch any of the three remaining flights back to Bangkok.

The problem was Thai Smile and Air Asia was wearing robbers masks quoting 4,000 baht each just for standby. Me thinks not cupcake no matter how sweet your smile is.

Nok Air had seats and they were asking only 6,000 baht for two. Sold. The only trouble was we had a two hour wait. Ah well, at least they had seats and we weren’t back outside taking a taxi to a hotel for the night.

6k ticket ubon to bangkok

The flight was delayed a little but in the end we arrived back in Bangkok safe and well.

Getting a taxi at the official stand at DMK took 10 minutes. All very efficient and eventually made it home around 11pm.

All in all it had been a decent 4 days away. I was feeling refreshed. My visa all sorted without any issues and I had a clear calendar ahead of me to do whatever I wanted which was knuckle down and get some content up on the site after six days of virtually no updates.

And that was that.



Stickboy aka Sticky Boy aka Mike McKay aka Mike McKwai, Wild Mike, Magic Mike, Mr Mike, and a fair few more best forgotten, is a party animal with hollow legs who loves music, current affairs, beer, food, causing trouble on Twitter, and making the most of life without worrying too much about what people think or say about his antics. You can send him stuff here - stickboybkk@gmail.com

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Opinion

The Countdown Is On And Time Is Running Out Fast For Some

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The Countdown Is On And Time Is Running Out Fast For Some

The visa amnesty in Thailand ends this weekend and the clock is ticking for tens of thousands who still don’t know what to do, can’t get an extension, can’t leave and return to activate another 90 days on their multiple entry visas and of course, those that claim they are “stuck” here when in fact they just don’t want to return home.

Those claiming they are stuck deserve no sympathy. Nobody is “stuck” anywhere.

Six months have past and many have enjoyed an extra half year in Thailand without worrying about their visa situation. I’ve read hundreds of stories over the past few months from people with far fetched tales that have more holes in them than an 18-hole golf course.

The bottom line is some people love it here and don’t want to leave but they can’t get a visa as they don’t have a job, don’t have a wife or mostly, don’t have the cash to support a visa application that requires money in the bank.

Agents having made a mint charging in the region of 55-70,000 baht for Volunteer visas. Others are cooking the (bank) books for those seeking a retirement visa and coining it in charging inflated fees knowing people are desperate to stay.

On the other hand, many who were here legally before the COVID carry on kicked in are in a difficult position.

Married men and woman who have a Non-O multiple entry visa spring to mind.

Those using this method of living in Thailand long term arrive with a shiny new visa sticker in their passport and get a 90-day stamp upon arrival at the airport.

Just before the 90 days is up they have 2 choices:

– do a border hop and get another 90 days when they come back into the country
– go to immigration and get a 60-day extension for 1900 baht.

With the country closed to international travellers, those border hops just aren’t possible and some have found during the past six months their visas have expired leaving them unable to pop over to Savannakhet where they could apply for a new one.

Those still with time left on their visa are now in a jam too as they can’t exit and re-enter.

For reasons unknown, the government nor immigration have addressed or come up with a solution for those in this situation.

So come Saturday 26 September, they are left with no choice but to either leave or stay and face prosecution and blacklisting from Thailand if they are caught.

Some have been given an extra 60 days for visiting family that sees them through until late November, but what then if the borders are still shut?

And that’s me just talking about people living here on a multiple entry marriage visas.

There are thousands of other stories and situations that will see people forced to leave or ignore the warnings of being fined and blacklisted who choose to remain and take their chances until borders reopen allowing them to do what is needed to live here legally.



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Opinion

Fantasy Footbun

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Fantasy Footbun

With the 2020 / 2021 football season about to start, it is time to test your footy knowledge and compete against the best of the best of Thailand Twitter’s Wannabe Football Managers.

With the first Gameweek closing on 12th September at 5pm (Thai time) there’s still some time to turn off Pornhub, clean yourself up and sign up for the league. And for god’s sake put some clothes on. (League code: q93lfx).

Let us kick things off with a look at the (currently) 23 teams competing in the Thai Twitter League.

We have two accounts new to Fantasy Premier League, Johan B’s ‘Digiman’ and Anthony M’s ‘Siam Swoon’. Time will tell if they pick up the rules quick enough to enjoy the game and do not lose interest by Christmas and languish at the bottom with a team full of injuries and nobodies.

At the other end of the table, the three teams with the highest score in the 2019-2020 season were:

1. 2313 : Cain in the Kok – Paul C

2. 2283 : Lockdown City – Alec P

3. 2281 : One Man Clapping – Nick W

Three managers looking to improve on last year’s total are Expat Asia’s ‘Sukhumvit FC’, Tim P’s ‘Maximum20characters’ and Johan J’s ‘FarangPilot FC’ that finished with 1729, 1920 and 1913 points respectively.

There is still time to join! Log in via the Premier League app or on the website fantasy.premierleague.com and use this code to sign up for the Thailand Twitter League. League code: q93lfx



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Opinion

Tales From The Front: Sunday Dinner On A Saturday Night

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Stickboy, Fatface, and The Keeper are sat in a British pub on lower Sukhumvit on a Saturday night…

A gathering of the clan earlier in the evening for some birthday beers meant Stickboy’s belly needed filling before meeting back up with everyone who had gone in different directions ahead of the cake cutting ceremony at Lighthouse sometime around 10pm.

Somchai The Dog had popped in for a couple of shandies but was looking like a burst couch and was having none of it ordering takeout before disappearing into the dark Bang Na bound on the BTS.

The other half of the Dangerous Duo, Digiman, wasn’t ready for home just yet but had no interest in food.

The Keeper orders quesadillas while smooth-talking his missus, girlfriend or gik – maybe all three – and wasn’t paying attention to much as Fatface orders Chips & Curry sauce for Stickboy.

sunday roast on a saturday night

The food arrives, everyone digs in, more beer is ordered to wash down the grub as all four eat what’s sat on the table.

The Keeper is still on the phone like an old sweetie wife and starts making space on the table with his free hand when a waitress arrives over his shoulder with another plate of food.

He clears a space in front of Fatface and Stickboy who look at each other thinking that’s an odd place to put a roast dinner they both think The Keeper has ordered for himself.

He ends his call and tucks into the roast pork telling everyone to help themselves which they do.

Chips are in the gravy, potatoes are in the curry sauce and the plate is emptying at a fair pace as four mouths feast on the Sunday dinner.

More than halfway through the food a member of the service staff appears and starts talking to The Keeper with Fatface joining in.

Something is amiss.

“Hey Stickboy, did you order the pork roast?”, enquires The Keeper.

“No mate, I thought you did.”

In his best Shaggy voice, he fires back, “It wasn’t me”.

It turns out some poor bloke sat at the bar was sitting patiently waiting on his dinner the staff had wrongly delivered that the four scavengers had all but demolished each of them thinking someone else at the table fancied a Sunday dinner on a Saturday night.

sunday roast on a saturday night

The four grubbers thought this was hilarious and all just shrugged their shoulders laughing having told the service staff to take it away… until Stickboy’s bin arrived with a Roast Pork Loin at 295 baht on it.

He wasn’t laughing any more.

Had it not been for the fact his mates own the pub he’d likely have upset the waitresses with a few choice words having been billed for something he didn’t order with zero conversation between staff and customer over what was a genuine mistake on the part of everyone involved.



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