I headed back to Thailand on the 8am Vientiane – Udon Thani International Bus (22000 kip, S$3.52), the journey taking about 2 hours including the border-crossing. This time, there were no fees at the border, even though at the Laos side I still had to get a “one-way ticket” for free by showing my passport at the customs counter. Also, I had to bring down my big bag from the bus at the Thailand side to be put through the X-ray machine. Do note that there may be additional fees if crossing the border outside of normal working hours, but those didn’t apply to me.
I decided to do a short stopover at Udon Thani, walking with my big bag in the area around Bus Terminal 1. The Prince Prajak Monument could definitely have been skipped, but Sanjao Pu-Ya had a rather picturesque setting beside the Nong Bua lake. I also popped into TESCO Lotus in UD Town to top up on drinks, before going back to the bus terminal to catch the 12.20pm bus to Khon Kaen (84 baht, 2 hours), where I had decided to spend the night.
At Khon Kaen, I first checked out Saen Samran Hotel, but its 220 baht single room with fan and private bathroom (no hot water) was dinghy and did not appeal to me. There was also no free wifi. Thankfully, Roma Hotel (a business hotel with rooms on both ends of the budget) was just across the street, and I was able to get a single room with fan, private bathroom (with hot water), and free wifi for 230 baht. Unfortunately, the wifi was only usable in the afternoon and not at night. Wifi aside, I still would choose Roma Hotel over Saen Samran Hotel.
Two attractions to highlight in Khon Kaen are the Hong Moon Mung Khon Kaen City Museum and the Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon in Wat Nong Wang. The former has good displays with explanations in English celebrating the city’s culture and achievements, while the latter (a multi-tiered stupa) is simply a sight to behold. These two attractions (along with several others) are situated around the Bueng Kaen Nakhon lake, which has a park encircling it. In the evening, I saw many locals jogging and making use of the park’s exercise facilities.