2/3/2009 – Goodbye Spicycrew and Laos
My alarm went off early and I was straight in the shower readying myself for the very long journey ahead. Today my journey consists of a bus trip to Vientiane, a mini bus to the border, another mini bus to the station at Nong Khai, and the overnight train to Bangkok.
I had a flight booked for Wednesday 4th March first thing in the morning. I had to pray that there were no complications on my journey if I was to make it there on time. I had 48 hours which I hoped would allow for any difficulties that might come my way. Generally, when travelling I wouldn`t worry so much, but for a flight, especially a long-haul, international one, I needed to make it.
I popped out to grab some breakfast and ended up back at the Australian bar as I figured a big fried breakfast would keep me going on the long journey ahead. Vang Vieng was quite pleasant first thing in the morning. The air felt like crisp mountain air and the people were milling about slowly. All I needed was the smell of fresh coffee to complete the moment, but my taste-buds still haven`t come round to brown stuff yet.
As I was leaving I bumped into Rob who was out on a morning jog and we said our goodbyes and he sent me off in the direction of his hotel room so that I could wake up Craig and Adam to say goodbye. I`m not sure if this went down too well, but it served them right for not saying goodbye the night before.
I went back to the hotel and said my goodbyes to the girls and loaded myself up with my rucksacks and waited outside for my VIP bus. Of course the bus was late, and of course it was not VIP in any way. It was a really old bus, with its engine exposed and everyone`s luggage was hoisted onto the roof. The seats were decrepit and there was practically no leg room and nowhere for hand luggage. I was one of the last pickup`s and I took my seat near the front and settled down with my Ipod on for the 5 hour journey ahead. The day was heating up and of course, there was no air conditioning just the windows that slid open. By this point in my travels I was more than used to this and I was completely unfazed.
The journey was not as precarious as before and the ley of the land is much flatter than in the North.
As we arrived in Vientiane in the mid-afternoon I was getting peckish but I got a bit lost trying to find the tourist office that I had booked my full ticket to Bangkok with. The directions given to me in Vang Vieng were not so straightforward and I tried following other backpackers in the wrong direction. Now, wandering around a strange city in searing heat with heavy backpacks on is not a pleasant experience but eventually I found it and was able to dump my bags at the office as, sure enough, there was another wait before the mini bus would take us to the border.
Vientiane is on the border of Laos with Thailand and the town of Nong Khai. These two neighbouring towns are separated by the river and connected by the relatively new Friendship Bridge. I found out that in just a few days time the train to Bangkok would start in Vientiane which would have taken hours off of my journey.
After some time waiting I was loaded into the back of a large tuk tuk along with a group of other westerners and we were driven to the border and sent off to do our paper work. This process took some time. After filling out the departure form, I had to queue and pay an exit tax. Then I had to fill in an arrival card for Thailand and wait a long time for a mini bus to arrive to drive us across the Friendship Bridge. This required some elbow work on my part as so many people were waiting for the rather elusive minibus. Across the bridge we climbed out of the bus and joined yet another queue to have our passports checked, and stamped into Thailand. Then I was back on the bus and we were driven to the train station around the corner.
I finally relaxed at the train station and found the canteen where I ordered some yummy, hot food and engaged in conversation with an Aussie guy. I then stocked up on snacks and water and boarded my carriage on the sleeper train.
The train was much like the Chiang Mai sleeper train, but unfortunately I was not able to get a lower bunk, which is preferable and much more comfortable. When we first board the carriage is made up of seats and I was opposite an Australian man in his mid-50`s. His name was William and he had been stationed at Nong Khai during the war and had also lived in London years back. He was incredibly friendly and we chatted for a while until the attendants came to make up our beds. I then climbed onto my bunk and settled down for some much needed sleep.