Our Train Trip From Thailand Into Laos
We had not planned on traveling to Laos. In fact I don’t think either one of us knew exactly where Laos was prior to arriving in Southeast Asia. We kept bumping into travelers that said what an amazing country it was, we decided we would check it out.
We arrived at the Bangkok airport from Krabi at 1pm. There is a train station conveniently located right across the street from the Bangkok airport. Luck would have it an overnight train was leaving at 9:30pm that night. We would have about 8 hours to kill in the airport, which surprisingly went by quite fast. We wasted time by eating, shopping and having some massages, all in the airport.
The train would be about an 11 1/2 hour ride. It would take us to a town called Nong Khai in northern Thailand, close to the Laos border. From there we would have to make our way into Laos. It would arrive in Nong Khai at 8:55am.
There is no train station as such, just some ticket booths. We had to stand along side the tracks and wait for our train to show up. Our car was #17, we had to go a long way down the tracks to wait for it. There were many local people waiting for the train as well as a large groups of missionaries.
When the train pulled up we had to quickly grab our bags and hop on, they don’t waste any time leaving. We squeezed our way down the tight hallway to our sleeping compartment. It was a very small room with bunk beds that could fold down into a couch. There was not much more space in the room. It had a small wash basin in the corner and a window. We barely got our bags put down on the floor before we were moving. An employee knocked on the door to collect our tickets. He asked if we wanted to order a breakfast of eggs, toast and juice. It was only a few dollars, so we said yes.
We settled in for the night and tried to sleep. We had ear plugs in but they were of little help. The train was extremely noisy and bumpy. We only got a few hours sleep in total. We would be woken every time the train changed tracks and each time it stopped and started again.
At 6:45am we woke up to a knock on the door. Our breakfast came a little earlier than expected. Jack got out of the bunk and collected it. We stared at it and both burst out laughing. It was the most horrid site! The eggs were fried and looked like white rubbery disks with orange jelly like orbs in them. The plates were swimming in grease. There were two small triangles of white bread that were not toasted at all, they were the thickness of paper. The orange juice was bright orange and resembled Kool aid. Jack shoved all of it into the cubby hole at the end of his bunk and we went back to sleep. When the guy came to collect the plates shortly before arrival he seemed stunned we had not eaten any of it.
Doesn’t that look tasty!!
The train arrived right on time. The locals in Nong Khai are quite used to travelers showing up to make their way into Laos. Tuk tuks sit and wait for the train to arrive. We took a short ride to the Thai border to get exit stamps in our passports. From there they have a shuttle bus that takes you across what is called the Friendship Bridge and to the Laos border offices. We had to apply for our entry visa into Laos. They will only give you a 15 day visa upon arrival. You can get 30 days if you apply in advance. We got our visa after a short wait and then got another tuk tuk. It was about a 15 minute ride to the capital city of Vientiane.
We stayed at a place called the Aroon Residence. It apparently has some long term ex-patriots living there, but we have seen very few people at all. The hotel is brand new and located down a quiet alley. We are paying $17 dollars a night. We have a nice size room with air con, a fridge, t.v and a real shower! Finally a separate shower that means you don’t have to soak the entire bathroom every time you wash!
Breakfast is also included in the price, but we haven’t bothered eating it. There is a different set of food they serve each day. It usually has some fruit included, but the rest of it like noodle soup, tuna sandwiches and fried rice just don’t appeal to us for breakfast. The staff are really friendly and have helped us with a lot of information. They have saved us money by letting us know we can book the special tourist bus at the station ourselves and don’t have to do it with a travel agent.
We have to laugh at the one young guy that works at the front desk. He seems to be obsessed with his hair. We keep seeing his head full of what we think is conditioner. He seems to leave it in for a while and then goes outside and rinses his head off with the garden hose. Sometimes we have seen him doing this several times in a day.
We have walked so many times down the alley to our hotel now that we have got to know the family that lives in a building there. There are 5 little kids and an older girl who goes to school. They play outside in the alley all day. Usually hitting each other and falling to the ground crying like typical kids. The very elderly grandma sits on a small bench outside the door. She cracked the biggest smile the first time we walked past her and said saibadee (hello). Now she greets us every time. All the kids yell out saibadee and wave at us when we come by now too.
This hotel is not right in the main busy area of town. We don’t mind walking into town if we have to. We enjoyed being out of all the noise and chaos. There are so many things to do in Vientiane that it doesn’t really matter where your accommodation is situated, you’ll be going all over to see things anyways.