Day 20-21 – Bangkok to Vientiane

I spent the next morning in the hostel very hungover from the night before and with plenty of time to burn.

I’d decided it was time to go to Laos so I’d booked a sleeper train ticket from 12go.asia to take me from Bangkok to Nong Khai which is a town right on the border, and would then make my way to the capital of Laos, Vientiane.

The train was due to leave at 8pm and arrive around 7am the next day so after getting up and checking out, I stayed in the hostel and watched some Netflix until getting a taxi at around 5pm to the main station.

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I quickly found the office of 12go.asia to collect my ticket and made my way to KFC at the station for some finger lickin’ good food. The portion was smaller than back home but it was still quite nice and cost about £3. As there weren’t many tables, I shared with a Chinese guy that was also getting the same train, and little did I know at this point he would end up following me all the way to Vientiane.

At first he seemed okay. He explained he was travelling to Laos as he works for a chemical business and he seemed good hearted. I think my problem was that I wasn’t in the mood for the ‘hey, how’s it going, what are you doing blah blah blah’ and just wanted to be left alone. I can be like that sometimes.

When I left KFC to a little shop to get some snacks for the train journey, he followed me and actually bought me chocolate. I did then get 30 minutes away from him before I boarded the sleeper train.

I was really quite impressed with the train. I’d picked a 2nd class ticket and had an upper bunk which gave me enough room, and was comfy enough to actually get some sleep. My 11 hour sleeper train journey cost me 900 baht (£18) which I felt was a really good price considering the distance and that it saved me from paying for a hostel overnight.

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Soon after the train started to leave, my new Chinese ‘friend’ found which car I was in and started trying to talk to me. Fortunately I think he may have got the message to leave me the fuck alone as he soon left when the attendants started to make the beds and I indicated I wanted some sleep.

I had a really good nights sleep. It was a little bumpy at times but by the time I awoke, we were very near to the border town of Nong Khai, and using my Thai tourist SIM, I followed the trains progress to the border.

I hadn’t done too much planning as to what to do at the border which was my fault, but soon enough after getting off the train, the Chinese man found me and said he had done the journey to Vientiane many times before. So whilst I thought he might be a kind hearted pain in the ass, if he could deliver me to Vientiane it might be worth it, and he ended up paying for all my transport expenses along the way so maybe it was…

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So the first step was to take a Tuk Tuk to the border crossing at the Thai Lao Friendship Bridge which was 30 Baht each. It was a short journey and I’m sure people could walk it, but with a large bag and a warm morning it was nice to be crammed in with 4 other people.

The second step was getting stamped out of Thailand. Again, this was easy enough, there was a queue but once at the front it was a quick stamp and on my way.

Then there was a 20 Baht bus journey across No-Mans-Land to take us across the bridge from Thailand to Laos. The Chinese guy already had a visa, but I had to fill in some forms, give them $35 US Dollars and wait a few minutes for my own visa on arrival to be processed. It was relatively painless considering the amount of scam stories I had heard and soon I was officially in Laos!

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Ah Laos, 30 seconds in and already I had a swarm of people saying ‘Tuk Tuk?’ waiting to rip me off. Despite it taking me 40 minutes to cross the border, the Chinese guy had waited for me.

He said he knew of a local bus to take us the 20 minute journey to Vientiane so I followed him and got on. I have no idea how much it was because the Chinese guy paid for me again (by which point it felt like he was grooming me…) but I was the only westerner on this bus.

The last stop was the bus station in Vientiane and I got off there when the Chinese guy did. As soon as the bus pulled in, a million and one Laotians swarmed the bus offering Tuk Tuks.

Much worse for me, a badly dressed Laotian guy just kept saying to me ‘Embassy…Passport..’ as I stood wondering where abouts I was with a backpack, heavy bag and plastic bag with food and water. To this day I still have no idea what this guy was going on about but he kept shouting it at me, which I kept ignoring…as if I would just hand over my passport to some random Laotian man.

Still he was fairly intimidating and it didn’t really help matters when my Chinese other half was telling me he was staying with a friend and could help me no further. Suddenly I had got off the bus with all my heavy things, with just Laotians all around me and no idea really where I was.

So I managed to get my two stalkers to talk to each other. I got the Chinese guy to talk to the Laotian ‘Passport, Passport’ man and suddenly just started walking away down a random street to escape them both…what a sigh of relief that was.

I still had the problem of not knowing where I was though with no accommodation so I soon approached a Tuk Tuk who of course offered to take me to where all the hotels were for an extortionate price of 30,000 kip (around £2.50). I would have actually tried to pay this or haggle down but all I had on me were Thai Baht and US dollars and he wouldn’t accept either so I trudged on trying to find somewhere to stay.

Vientiane might be the capital of Laos, but if you type it into hostelworld you’ll find out there’s only about 5 hostels listed so at this point I was willing to take anything.

Finally I found my way to a nice looking guesthouse. At $18 US per night it was a little pricy compared to normal but it was nice enough. I mean this is Laos so don’t go expecting working locks, TVs that are from after 1990 or a room free from lizards but it was still pleasant.

In the end I didn’t do too much else on this day. I had a little nap and relaxed with some Netflix as I was tired, made some calls, checked out the map, wandered around Vientiane and ate a not so nice but expensive dinner…but I had planned a nice day the following day to make up for it.  I acquainted myself with Beer Lao which is pretty much THE beer to have in Laos and relaxed for the evening in front of some live music.

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