28 Jan 2009
Phu Inn, Khon Kaen, Thailand
Hotel Room
16°25'53.05"N 102°50'14.10"E
1 Room

At 28 Jan approx AU$16

We travelled to Khon Kaen as a transit stop en-route to Laos, and found it to be a surprisingly nice and laid back town. We went to the bus terminal in Bangkok and asked two desk prices - both were BT580, but the timing was no good. The third we asked was almost half price at BT320 - and this was a 24 seat VIP bus with a stop for lunch half way through the journey included in the price. I've never shopped around on bus fares, just assumed they were all the same. Never again.

The Phu Inn is a 80-odd room budget hotel a two minute walk to the Air Conditioned (main) bus terminal. It's an older hotel which means nice big rooms; they were basic but very clean. We had no complaints a about the bed or pillows, but the towels were a bit on the thin side.

No kettle, but there was a small fridge, a fairly uncomfortable leather sofa and a TV with 199 channels. Most were foreign, a lot coming from South Africa, Nigeria and other such places but the majority from South East Asia. 5 sports channels meant all the football Peter could ask for, and I had BBC world, CNBC Asia, Aisanewschannel, Al Jazeera and a couple of others I didn't bother with including Bloomberg and CNN. There were also several movie channels about half of which were dubbed into Thai, Cambodian or some variation of Indian.

The icing on the cake was the ultra-fast free WiFi connection - by far the fastest connection I've ever had on the laptop, and it would appear that I was the only one using it.

Staff are lovely but speak very little English, and after being embarrased at first started to teach us new Thai words every day.

The location is great. In the town centre, but down a side street so away from the noise. A large food stall/canteen market is literally next door to the hotel, a couple of reasonably priced convenience stores straight over the road. It's a less than ten minute walk to the surprisingly large market, where prices were much cheaper than Bangkok for both clothes, household bits and bobs and fruit and veg. En-route and close to the market are 2 shopping malls, with a third one being built at the moment.

Peter went out to watch the football and had a much better time than in all the weeks we were in Bangkok. Most westerners here are married to Thai women, not with one eye on the conversation and the other checking out the girls or for ladyboys. Grog was also about half price. As an example, during Happy Hour a small (330ml) of Leo beer costs BT90 in Bangkok, and BT120 at all other times. The same small bottle was BT50 in Khon Kaen and a large (640ml) bottle of Leo cost BT70. Doesn't matter what a Baht is worth, the bars in Khon Kaen are making money or they wouldn't be in business. In Bangkok there is a fair mark-up. Thai food off the streets and canteens are the same as Bangkok, but western meals in steakhouses etc were a little cheaper.

Khon Kaen is a lovely town with serviced apartments, and I can see us coming back here and spending a few weeks - staying at the Phu Inn whilst we inspect the apartments.

Khon Kaen is also a convenient stop-over point for those heading to Laos - 2 daily bus services (7.30am and 3.15pm) go direct to the Laos capital city Vientiane for BT180 from the Air Conditioned Terminal (air condition refers to the buses, not the bus station. Beware though - this is an international bus and you need to obtain your visa before you leave Khon Kaen. 3 people on our bus hadn't bothered and were stuck in a queue of at least 100 waiting to have visa on arrival processed. Our driver pulled one of them back to the bus and got him to take their bags off as we weren't going to wait for them. The Laos Consulate is on the main road out of town, about a 25 minute pleasant walk. About US$5 more than at the border, but if you're getting the international bus rather than taking your chances with the taxi mafia on the other side, it's well worth it.