You'd swear the pavement was going to start melting at any point. Even the Thai people were sitting in the shade, waving fans and saying "very hot, very hot".
We departed Vientiane only with a plan to get to Chiang Mai. How was not entirely clear. So we made it back across the Friendship Bridge to Nong Khai, Thailand and the advice we were given (it is never really clear who works at the bus station, or bus company and who is trying to make a buck) was to go to Udon Thani for a VIP bus to Chiang Mai.
Dutifully we boarded the bus to Udon Thani and after a pleasant 1 hour journey, arrived at a bus station that looked just like Nong Khai's, including the same cast of characters. We were led to a wonderful old man who told us the 8 p.m. VIP bus was sold out, but that there was space on the 7:30 p.m. "Air Con" bus. Concurrent thoughts run through your head at 11 a.m. when you are given this information - "Will we survive a 12 hour overnight bus journey sitting on seats that barely recline?" and "what on earth will we do in Udon Thani, in this heat for 7 hours?"
With "air con" bus tickets in hand, our "liason" who just happened to have a tuk tuk (go figure), took us to the local Wat and nearby park. The Wat was beautiful and somewhat cooler which made resting there bearable. Then it was onto the park, but it was too hot for a park that day. We recalled that our "liason" had told us there was a shopping mall and like any reasonable Thai on a scorching hot day, we headed where they head - to the mall.
But just prior to finding the magical tuk tuk to take us there, we spotted a woman rolling what appeared to be a big steel drum towards us. She stopped for a customer and scooped something out. Our pace quickened at the thought that it could be ice cream. And for the amazing sum of 5 baht (15 cents) we had in our hand some of the best homemade icecream (flavor unknown) we had ever tasted.
But better than the ice cream was the air-conditioned shopping mall. And Thai's do shopping malls right. Yes there are stores, but there are also internet cafes, amazing food courts, movie theaters, hair salons and bowling alleys. Unfortunately, we only had time for the food (cinnamon infused hard boiled eggs were delightful) and internet, as right around the corner (in another air con building) was a pub with free pool.
It is amazing how, on a scorching hot day, in a town that we never expected to visit, there are such fond memories. And best of all, as we approached the bus station office, a lady ran toward us and said "there was a last minute cancellation on the VIP bus and we saved the seats for you".
What a day!