Savannakhet: Another Visa Run

Lonely Planet described Savannakhet as a sleepy town with with some charming French architecture and good French food.  They really oversold it.  It’s nothing more than a pit-stop with crumby accommodations and a handful of expensive western restaurants.  If there was any French architecture, it’s been replaced by rusty corrugated metal roofs, empty lots, and garbage.

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To get here was a slog, but one that I’m starting to get used to.  A 45 minute ride from Phetchabun to Lom Sak, then a ice-cold 7-hour bus ride to the border town of Mukdahan, Thailand (359 THB).  From there I paid 50 THB to take a second bus across the Friendship Bridge II to Savannakhet.

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Friendship Bridge II

It was the same routine as before, but this time I was the only non-Asian (haha) looking person.  Get off the bus at the Thai border with my departure card, get a stamp, get back on the bus.  Drive a few minutes, get off the bus at the Lao border, pay 1800 THB or 42 USD (which is only 1550 THB) for the visa.

My highly recommended guesthouse was a complete disappointment.  The only window in my room faced the hallway.  At 3:00 am the owner started to blast music from his room.  The one right next to where he put me.

I rented a bicycle for 15,000 K ($2.50), and took a tour of town.  A ride along the Mekong showed me some rundown guesthouses and more empty lots.  I stepped on a concrete block and fell through the sidewalk.  I asked about shopping and was sent to the main street – about a dozen shops with random clothes and flip flops.  Then to the daily market, which is the same local market I’ve seen before.  I could have browsed random stalls for a shirt, but the smell of hot fresh raw protein turned me away.  And the night market had another handful of street food, but nothing to entertain me.

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I eventually found a salon to have a pedicure.  I had to wait for two clients to finish getting their hair washed.  Meanwhile two toddlers were sneaking a peak at me.  So cute!  I even resorted to reading my book.  But it was a welcome distraction from my day of nothing.  The pedi cost me about $2.60.

The next day I found a really nice salon – Happy Beauty Salon.  The owner, Happy, had great English.  She did nails for a summer in Chicago.  I got an inexpensive manicure (15,000 K), and an expensive but amazing oil massage (80,000 K).   So the total was $16.50 CAD.  Am I losing perspective?  Or gaining perspective?

The only thing that saved my dull trip was meeting some other teachers at the consulate.  Neither of them knew each other, but both of them knew me through my coworkers.  One was a former teacher from my school and the other did her TESL training with some of my colleagues.  And both of them attended Nipissing University in Ontario.  What a small world.

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