Traveling over Mitthaphap road from Saraburi to Nong Khai

Lam Takhong lake in North-East Thailand

Lets start by stating that the only real highways are the toll-roads in Bangkok, all others are just major roads. And some of them have a long history and go from Bangkok all the way to the border of Thailand. Mitthaphap road (also called Route 2 or Friendship Road) is such a road. It begins in Saraburi (75 km north-east of Bangkok), a relatively not so interesting city. Here you are still at the Central Plain of Thailand. The nearby area is Thai-famous for its “sunflower fields” where every year thousands of Thai tourists come. But after Muak Lek the roads starts to go up to the Khorat plateau with a average elevation of 200 meter. Along the road are markets where they sell all kind of fruit and “jungle food”. Here you are driving along the beginning of Khao Yai and you are passing Pak Chong (along the road to Khao Yai are some very good bbq pig restaurants).

Just after Pak Chong you are passing “LamTakong” reservoir, a huge lake of about 12 km long and 3km wide. Along this lake are many restaurants where the parking guards are all trying to get passing by cars to stop at their restaurant. While driving along the lake on your right hand side is a mountain and on top of it is a nice restaurant (with hotel) and another hand-made water-reservoir (on top of a mountain!!). When you just passed the “LamTakong” reservoir and come at the highest point there is a U-turn, or actually a intersection. If you go to the right here you can follow a small road all the way up to the mountain and have a beautiful view all over the lake and the surrounding area.

Once you have passed “LamTakong” reservoir you have reached to Khorat plateu. At the intersection of route 2 and route 24 is Sikhu and from the highway you can see the huge temple that is build there, on you left hand side just after Sikhu. From here route 2 leads to Khorat (Nakhon Ratchasima). The original route goes really into the city but the new route goes like a ring-road around the city. From here you starting to go straight north.

Prasat Hin Phi Mai in North-East Thailand
Prasat Hin Phi Mai
After about 50 km you are passing the intersection with route 206 that leads to Phimai that is world-famous for its “Prasat Hin Phimai” khmer temple build during the “Great Khmer Kingdom” and connected to Angor Wat by the “Ancient Khmer Highway”. Actually on many places in the Isaan you can find remain of the Khmer presence here.

From here the road leads to Khon Kaen, an administrative center of the Isaan. For some reason this place is visited by tourists and there are a lot of good hotels in the city. Actually Khon Kaen is a nice city, with a lake & park in the center.

From here the road leads to Udon Thani, known by many US-pilots during the Vietnam war as Udon Thani was home to one of the many USA airfields in Thailand. Nowadays it seems that Udon Thani is developing in a more attractive city and there are coming more better hotels and restaurants. Also Udon Thani has a nice lake & park, called “Nong Prajak” with a few restaurants along and a very nice new hotel.

From here it is only a short ride to Nong Khai along the Mekong river (Mae Nam Khong) and border-town with Laos. Until the Thai-Lao friendship bridge was build the only way to get in to Laos was by ferry. Along the banks of the Mekong river did grown in those years the famous “IndoChina Market” where you could buy “everything”. Nowadays this market it still there, although all a bit different as just outside of town is now a bridge going to Laos from where it connects to Vientianne, the capital city of Laos. Nong Khai is a lovely little city with a nice boulevard with restaurants and guesthouses. Just out of town is a amazing crazy “Budha Park” to resemble Heaven & Hell. Of course Nong Khai is ussed as gate-way to Laos, but it could also be a starting-point of beautiful trip along the Mekong river in direction of Loei.