Tha Kaek is another sleepy provincial capital draped languidly along the eastern shore of the Mekong, where there is little to do except stroll the waterfront and relax. Are you seeing a pattern here? The Lao national emblem should be a hammock.
When I arrived late yesterday I was underwhelmed – it’s nice, but hardly special – and I intended to head off immediately today to the larger town Savannakhet a few hours further south. But on waking I decided I wasn’t in such a hurry, and that I could easily spend another day soaking up the atmosphere here. While it may not be special, it is a pleasant place to hang the boots. Having a nice hotel helps a lot too, of course: from a paucity of quality options the Inthira Hotel is perfectly located near the waterfront, has wifi internet (*usually) and a luscious king-size bed with the best pillows I’ve laid my head on since The Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld. Well worth it for just A$22 a night.
The latest guidebook says Tha Kaek feels like Vientiane did ten years ago. If that’s true, Vientiane has changed very rapidly… while a handful of travellers do make it here Tha Kaek is very much a place for locals, and the local economy seems to bustle happily. There are numerous shops offering everything needed for the modern Lao life: mobile phones, scooters and places to service and wash them (these are always busy), clothes, homewares and hardware, kids’ toys, televisions. The tuk-tuk drivers don’t heckle you for rides because they are still a popular local form of transport, and in almost two hours wandering the main streets today I saw exactly three other foreigners amidst hundreds of Lao.
Not much else to report really, but I think you can understand now why I was so obsessed with gathering books while in Hanoi and Vientiane. It’s taken just one morning to see this town, and I don’t fancy doing laps in the heat. Missions for the afternoon: lunch, reading, maybe a nap, perambulating the waterfront, more reading, dinner, and because it’s unlikely I’ll find someone to hang out with tonight probably an early night in, with more reading or possibly watching the box. Ahhhh…. is it possible for stress levels to go negative?