• Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Packing to go and getting to Laos...

    Back from Laos and now in a mad rush to say all the goodbyes and pack everything ready for shipping. The house is starting to resemble an indoor market with boxes and packing everywhere and the floor littered with various objects and items.

    We're having a harsh de-clutter at the same time. So much junk that really isn't worth carting all the way back home. The daughter and the wife are the biggest collectors of junk. Personally I'm into minimalism and other than clothes have very little apart from books, techie gadgets and DVDs. As fast as I fill bags with unused toys and clothes for the local orphanage the daughter empties them, insisting that this little plastic toy that doesn't work is really something that she "needs". How is it that 3 year olds don't actually want or prefer things, they need them.

    Having looked into the options for getting to Laos from Bangkok we opted for overnight train. Cheaper than air, more interesting, and environmentally streets ahead of any airline option it was a good choice. 1st class sleeper to Nong Khai was 1,200 baht per adult, kids go free. For that we had our own air-con compartment with two beds, a sink and a small amount of space. Breakfast and dinner can be ordered in advance and delivered at a pre-arranged time, though I wouldn't recommend the food on the train unless you're really desperate.

    Vientiane isn't much to look at. Basic, dusty and geared up for the cross border traffic and trade that is clearly a big part of local life. The most disticntive things about Nong Khai was the tuk-tuks, the distinctive Laos tuk-tuk with the driver perched high up on the front half of a motorbike. They don't have the speed of the Bangkok tuk-tuk and certainly didn't feel anywhere near as safe, which is worrying.

    1st class compartment

    Nong Khai

    We crossed the 2km friendship bridge in a rickety old bus, crammed against what felt like half the population of Thailand. Checking in to Laos was frustrating. The queues at immigration were long and painfully slow moving and the guys processing the visa on arrival decided to down tools for a lunch break just as we arrived. But then we made it into the former Land of a Million Elephants (Lan Xang), as it was prior to being renamed Laos.

    The taxi ride into town was interesting. The driver was really friendly, like pretty much all Laotians we met, and happily chatted to us about Vientiane and handed some good advice about what to see and prices for various things. The taxi was reminiscent of one I went in in Rangoon: Japanese, right hand drive in a left hand drive country, and held together by rust and dirt.

    Train: 1,200 baht per adult
    Visa on arrival for UK passport: US$35
    Entrance fee: 10 baht
    Taxi to downtown Vientiane: 300 baht

    More about Laos to come.

    Packing to go and getting to Laos...

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    Blogger AceOne118 said...

    Haha!! Enjoy your stay in Laos. BTW, I have linked you back! Thank You very much.

    1:22 pm  
    Anonymous Chris | nomad4ever said...

    Wahh, lucky you! Laos is the way.
    Hope to read soon more about your ventures and a lengthy trip report and probably some YouTube Videos.

    But I bet you will be stuck in VangVien for days and days. Hehe!

    Have a good one! Or a few. ;-)

    6:04 pm  
    Blogger Life Out East said...

    Aceone118: Cheers, thanks for that.

    Chris: YouTube will be a bit tricky from Thailand as they've BANNED it now! Though there will be a video eventually. Laos - wonderful place!

    8:36 pm  
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