The flower lands to the west of Nong Khai is an area of low lying lakes where flower cultivation is a very popular way of generating income.

These pretty fields are part of an easy cycle route from Mut Mee, (for map click here) which makes a fun three or four hour excursion, and passes some unusual temples and, for part of the way, follows the Maekong River upstream, where you can see market gardening and village life.

Most of the flowers produced in this area are well known international varieties, including chrysanthemums, roses, gladioli and marigolds. Demand for more exotic varieties is increasing, and farmers are already trying out different crops.

The fertile land by the riverbank, and the availability water from the lakes all year round, make flower production viable. Being close to the town is also important, as this provides both a ready market itself and transport to more distant customers. The lake of Nong Som Hong is very beautiful; though only 50m wide it is over 3km long.

From the flower lands the small quiet back roads lead you up through lotus ponds and eventually to the Maekong riverbank. Here you can see a whole variety of market gardening along the edge of the river. Pictured right is chilli peppers drying in the sun. Every small village backs on to fields leading down to the waters edge, where the rich alluvial soil is good for growing tomatoes, chillies, cabbages and lettuces and other higher value produce.

Every village has its own temple and, as these villages are relatively prosperous, the temples here are quite exquisite. This one known as Wat Phra Chai Chet Taa is one of the most beautiful.

his village hosts a small but well known rocket festival every year in May. (see Rocket Festivals)

You frequently see charcoal burning ovens in the countryside. These big mounds of clay cover the smouldering wood, and they puff away for about a week. This one has just been broken open and the new charcoal removed. It will then be restocked with wood, sealed with a thick layer of wet clay and made air-tight. A fire is then lit underneath and it's left to smoke to produce another batch.

Nearly every temple along the river bank has its own long boat. A complete crew has some thirty members, all paddling at full tilt down the Maekong during the October - December boat races!

In the perfect position to visit, either at the very beginning or very end of your short cycle trip, Wat Jan Samakki, or the temple of the harmonious moon, is one of the most splendid temples in Nong Khai. Moreover, it is surrounded by some of the most wonderful gardens. The style is very elaborate and the rooves and porticos some of the most ornate I have ever seen in Thailand.

The entrance pictured left, leads up the to the Wiharn (temple community hall) and is in itself an excellent reason to spend a few moments here. The main chapel is yet to be finished, but if its roof is any guide to is final appearance, it will be fantastic.

At the very back of the temple is this extraordinarily pretty residential hall. Covered in textured terracotta tiles and with most unusual double gables this building is a one off.

If you visit the temple by bicycle, please note that you are not allowed to cycle through it. Bicycles are to be left at the small car park on the right at the front.