13-Feb-2002 -- After our successful visit to 18°N 103°E in Laos we were back in Udon Thani, Thailand. I had hoped to visit a couple of confluences on this trip, the one in Laos and one 50km south of Udon; but then our plans changed and we had three and a half days to work with. So we decided to set out and see how many confluences we could visit in the given time. This would give us an opportunity to explore North-Eastern Thailand, a part of the country that is dominated by agriculture and not much visited by foreigners. Agriculture has been around for a while here: Ban Chiang (World Heritage site) 50km east of Udon Thani is the site of one of the oldest agricultural societies on the planet. Pottery and bronze tools found there date back 5,000 to 7,500 years.
The 1:500,000 road atlas we obtained showed a number of confluences in the north east of Thailand within 5km or less to some kind of road. The condition of the smaller roads was not clear and we were told they might be paved, dirt or might not exist at all. We borrowed an ancient Mercedes 300D (Thanks again!) and set out for this confluence.
We left Udon Thani on highway 22 and went via 2280, 222, 2026 to the village Seka. The map indicated an unnumbered road turning north towards our goal about 7km east of the village. A note about road numbers: The number of digits in a road designation indicates the importance/size of a road: roads with single digit numbers are divided highways, whereas roads with four digit numbers are usually very narrow paved roads with no shoulder. On the other hand traffic is usually quite light on the 4-digit roads while it may be heavy to congested on the important roads, particularly close to the cities. All numbered roads are generally well marked with signs in agreement with our maps. We could, however, not rely on the maps in regards to the unnumbered roads, they were not always there. In this particular case we found a paved road leading north towards the confluence.
The road parallels a rather large lake (~6km x ~2.5km, not named on our maps) for a few kilometers. We passed a little village when the GPS indicated that we were about 2km west of the confluence. We ignored a narrow dirt road heading in the right direction and went passed the village. When it was clear that the paved road would take us in the wrong direction we turned into the next best dirt road and drove a couple of kilometers until the confluence was about 1.2km south of us. Here the perfectly flat, pothole-less road ended and a sandy track started. Time to walk, we didn't want to get the Benz stuck out here, just because we were too lazy to walk a few kilometers!
We walked passed some rice fields, a rubber tree plantation, and got to a field with sugar cane still waiting to be harvested. At the end of the field we encountered dense bushes along a creek. Crossing the little swamp with still about 400m to go to the confluence we could only hope that the jungle would not extent that far. As it turned out we quickly emerged into a harvested sugar cane field and could walk straight towards the confluence. About 80m north of the spot we crossed a good dirt road, probably the road we ignored in the village earlier!
We reached the confluences around 12:15pm. The GPS indicated an altitude of 650ft (198m); EPE was 3ft. The confluence lies in the middle of a sugar cane field; there were rubber tree plantations to the east and west. We got here after the harvest and the field had already been burned. The burnt smell was still in the air. This time of year is the dry season with practically no rainfall from November through February. The dry conditions made for a dusty walk, but also kept humidity in check, which made the temperatures above 30°C (85°F) more bearable.
On the way back to road 2026 we stopped at the lake for a picnic lunch. What looked like a simple picnic area from the road revealed itself as a little 'restaurant' right at the beach and we got some delicious fried noodles. While waiting for the food we studied the maps planning the continuation of the trip to our next destination: 17°N 104°E.