Phon Phisai is a riverside town about 40 km east of Nong Khai, Thailand.
We travelled from Vientiane, Laos over the Friendship Bridge to Nong Khai, where our hosts, Jeremy & Waree, met us and took us on to Phon Phisai. From that moment on, and until the moment we left, Jeremy & Waree were warm, friendly & attentive, seeing to our every need & wish.
The guesthouse is lovely. It overlooks the Mekong River, where there is always some activity, such as fishermen in their boats on the water or people working in their neat vegetable gardens on the banks.
As well as offering painting & photography classes, Jeremy & Waree can take one to see varied & interesting activities in the surrounding area. Alternatively one can just relax and take in the scene.
We went to see Waree's home village and her parents' shop, and then to a delicious BBQ in her sister's rubber plantation, followed by a visit to see (and try our hand at!) rice harvesting, also calling in at a temple and a market (with delicacies such as cooked rat and spider on offer!).
We much enjoyed meeting and getting to know the other guests also staying at the same time, both on the trips and at the great meals back at the guesthouse.
Five of us booked out Mekong House in its opening week! We were greeted with welcoming smiles from Waree, Jeremy and their lovely family at Udon Thani airport. On our way to Mekong House we enjoyed traditional Thai food for lunch on a floating restaurant in Nong Khai.
Jeremy and Waree Holton’s guest house is on the banks of the Mekong River. Unspoilt views greeted us every morning! Across the river we could see a temple (Wat) in Laos from our bedroom window and from the terrace where we enjoyed our meals.
On this holiday we chose to go on tours as most of us had already enjoyed several art lessons with Jeremy at his Peach Tree Gallery in Western Australia. In the evenings we reviewed our photos and learnt how to set up profiles on Google, for those who didn’t have them, and how to use photo editing software. We shared our photos as a group, and can access them online, as well as do our own thing with the originals back home. This photographic component was our choice, along with the tours, in lieu of painting classes and it certainly ticked the boxes for us as Jeremy has extensive knowledge in computing and software programs.
Waree arranged all our transport needs direct from Mekong House and came with us so we had an interpreter wherever we went. Fluent in Thai and English, she was the perfect assistant, always smiling, warm and friendly. We loved the opportunity to see Ban Pho, her home village, and to meet her family. This is ‘unspoilt’ Thailand at its best. Just across from her family’s shop my husband got his hair cut and had his first shave for all of a few Thai Baht!
Jeremy and Waree accompanied us to the local markets in Nong Khai, the Laos Market day on the river bank, and took us to the magnificent Sculpture Gardens, Sala Kaew Ku (Wat Khaek) in Phon Phisai. There I had my palm read which was a delightfully positive experience. We also visited the markets nearby, where we saw insects on sale for eating…pass(!), though our hosts enjoyed some!
We all loved our day trip to the Wat Phu Tok further north. It was well worth the long climb up the mountain stairway. Walking around the mountain on the wooden platform is a must-do experience - one I will never forget! Sweeping views and the setting sun were well worth the effort.
Thai food is to die for! We ate authentic Thai every day! Waree and her sister, Jit, cooked delicious evening meals with our ‘falang’ (foreigner’s) taste buds in mind. Some foods could have been really hot, but they were always tailored down to suit us! For breakfast though we had traditional English cooked breakfast always followed by a platter of fresh fruit. One day we asked what the Thai people ate for breakfast and volunteered to try Thai style porridge. All of us tucked into more than one bowl full and Nung chose to refill the serving bowl…so we had even more! Yum!
At Mekong House a beautiful vase of red roses added a special touch in our guest room. At first I thought this odd, until I learned that orchids are not considered as special as they are so common! The rooms are well appointed and each room comes with its own en-suite, plenty of cupboard space and drawers, a small table and chairs and a tv. They are spacious and clean and are serviced daily - clean towels daily, clean bed linen every other day, personal washing done (for a small fee if lots, and an appropriate tip for Jit as this was an additional service). Tea and coffee making facilities, a complimentary bottle of water daily, an international power board for recharging cameras, phones and tablets, free wireless connection and fantastic views! On request we even had a choice of mugs or a cup and saucer for hot drinks!
The guest dining / lounge room is very comfortable, and perfect to relax in. We chose to eat our meals on the terrace though, as the weather was perfect. The guests’ fridge was well stocked with a good range of drinks which were available for a small fee. There’s a good range of movies to choose from or karaoke for those who are keen! We tried both and movies won greater rounds of applause, though Jeremy carries a tune really well! And Adam, one Jeremy and Waree’s, young sons, even entertained us at times with very capable performances on the electronic piano.
On the last night of our stay, Nung, one of the family helpers at the house, lit hot air balloons and a very long fire cracker which we took turns holding. We released the balloons over the Mekong. It was a beautiful farewell gesture.
It is the best cultural experience I have ever had! There is such wide range of options to mix and match what we would like to do. We will be going back next year!