After we left Krabi, we headed to Nong Khai, a city in the Northeastern part of Thailand, for the infamous Naga Fireball Festival. Nong Khai is on the bank of the Mekong river, with Laos just across the water, which is cool, but only because Laos is a country I haven't been to. I hear it's not amazing, but I wanted to go over there anyway... my Facebook "Where I've Been" map isn't going to update itself, you know.
Laos, from across the river. You don't have to say it - I know it's an amazing shot.
So our whole trip to Nong Khai stemmed from a book of Danielle's called "1001 Natural Wonders of the World", which featured a section on "Naga Fireballs". According to the book, these fireballs are supposed to be naturally-occurring glowing balls that rise up from the Naga (serpent god) that lives in the Mekong river. I'm not describing it well enough, but it is really hyped up in Thailand and all of Southeast Asia. To get a more detailed account of the fireballs (and to see why we traveled across the country to see them) click here. Or you can just Google naga fireballs and read any or all of the numerous articles about it. See, it's a pretty big deal.
So, long story short, we got to Nong Khai the night before the fireball extravaganza, (which is traditionally held on the last full moon in October... You'd think it'd be hard to plan the exact date and time of a naturally-occurring event, but they do) and walked around the local festival and ate some weird street food, including, but not limited to a pancake-type thing hard-fried in loads of palm oil and covered in sweetened condensed milk. It was delicious. The next day we explored the town, ate some Vietnamese food and fed a baby elephant. Just a typical day.
Elephants love me. It's a fact. Photo by Mary P.
To go see the fireballs, we had to take a bus to a different town not too far away. However, in typical Asian style, we had to wait until the bus filled all the way up with people. And that includes filling the aisles with standing passengers. So between waiting time and driving time, we didn't get to the place until two hours later. We were still in pretty good spirits, though... anticipation is powerful medicine (so is beer, and we may have had a couple on the bus ride over). We waded through the crowd to find a perfect spot from which to see the fireballs (we didn't find one), and then we waited for hours for the fireballs to start. They eventually did, but they were, shall we say, less than stellar. It was a huge disappointment. Click on this link to see a video of exactly what we saw. Actually, that video is probably better than what we saw. I think we witnessed maybe four "fireballs" in all, and they all strangely seemed to be coming from the Laotian side of the river. We foreigners were not very impressed, but I can't speak for the Thai visitors. Man, they go crazy for those things!
A boat that came "coincidentally" just before the fireballs. Each time. Also, yes, my pictures from Nong Khai aren't very good. Sue me.
To get back to our hotel, we had to take another bus (standing room only by the time we got there... it wasn't very pleasant) and inch our way through traffic for two and a half hours. We were all fairly disheartened by the whole experience, but hey, tomorrow is another day. However, the next day started in much the same vein as the night before... Our flight out was early in the morning and our hotel was an hour away from the airport. No one spoke enough English to help us get a taxi, and no one seemed to understand why we were going to the airport in the first place. Why would we ever want to leave? (Remember, we are all well-seasoned travelers by this point... they were making it illogically difficult. Not our fault.) The whole debacle took maybe two hours, with lots of stressful hair-pulling and kicking of things. It involved numerous tuk-tuks, a ride to the taxi station, a ride to the bus station, and then a ride to the airport in a tiny beater truck. It was ridiculous, but we made it.
Anyway, so that about sums up our Nong Khai trip. Sorry, it wasn't quite as short as I had planned, but I wanted you to get the full effect of our experience. Not all parts of the trip were good ones, but it was an unforgettable experience, to say the least.
Matt is working late tonight. Bleh.