Nong Khai (Sala Keo Ku)

The trip to Vientiane was an interesting experience. I travelled on a night bus that had (not so) reclining seats, down a windy and treacherous road. My seatmate was a very nice Israeli lady who had recently finished the military service. She got an amazing discount for us and two Hong Kong girls on the Tuk Tuk to the city center; the Lao driver initially asked for 80.000, but the mighty Jewish bargaining skills on the army lady brought it down to 25.000. I was very impressed.

Vientiane is very chilled out, has a nice view of the Mekong, and is itself quite a cute looking place, with a nice blend of traditional Eastern temple and colonial French style. But I'll not write about Vientiane today.

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Today I'll talk about Nong Khai, a small city on the other side of the Mekong, in Thailand, and Sala Keo Ku, a small village outside Nong Khai, with a very special statue park.

After a forthnight in Vientiane, my Lao visa expired and I had to leave the country and enter again, spending a a few days in Thailand. The closest city from the border is Nong Khai, which I did not explore much, but it didn't seem to have that much to offer anyway. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see how friendly people were, and how much more open, compared to Lao.

Here in Vientiane you can find quite a few 'after-40' expats who are trying to find a pretty local flower, but in Nong Khai I saw a much higher percentage. Some fellow travellers have given me their opinions about it, and it's usually negative. And usually against the old white western ugly old man who is in South East Asia trying to find a nice young wife. Well, the way I see it, it's not so bad. They probably have other reasons to be hanging around here, and finding a younger wife is no sin. But even if some of them are creepy old men who are here just for the plucking of flowers, well, I wouldn't say they're the evil villains and the locals are the poor victims. They seem to be nice guys, and their (usually ugly) girlfriends seem to enjoy the whole thing quite honestly - and I heard that they often break the old gentlemen hearts, after they build houses and exchange promises.

But the greatest part of all the "Visa Run", as they call it, was certainly the statue park and the temple within it. Some of the sculptures are just plain wicked!
While I was walking through the park, mesmerized by the really cool stuff there, enjoying the interaction with the Thai tourists, I heard a deep low beat somewhere, irregular and vibrant, which made me think of some sort of slow-motion DubStep. I followed it, and reached the temple, in which people were praying and... playing the Mighty Gong, which reverberated through the whole building. I could feel the sounds not only with my ears, but my whole body. I really hope to become the owner of a Gong in the future.
(I recommend seeing the following pictures in larger size, through this link)
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