Night Train to Bangkok

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 28, 2013

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Sunday, February 19, 2012


Vientiane, Laos / Nong Khai, Thailand 20km

Nong Khai to Bangkok: 674km
Train #70 18:20 departure / 06:25 arrival (8:30AM actual)

We figured we needed to cross the border by 3PM to catch the 6:20P train. There is a morning train but we were not up rushing across the border at 6AM. We have time. We went out for a leasurely western breakfast at Full Moon Café, a tourist oriented place across from our hotel. I swear this is the same one we visited in 2007 with Nic and Kat from Germany. It did not look familiar to Michelle.

Tessa and Milan came down the street. It had taken them over an hour last night to find a hotel for 180000 kip, three times what we paid. We tried not to gloat. They split a room so it wasn't so bad. What was bad was they sub-let the room. For some odd reason they couldn't find a room after walking around for a long time. Then they asked a westerner on the street at 1AM. He was polluted and willing to let them buy his room while he stayed out all night drinking. They felt desperate and agreed. Milan planned to be on our train to Bangkok so we expected to see him again later. Tessa was off to Paskse in southern Laos on the night bus……

Having oodles of time, we walked the 2 kilometers to the bus station that would take us the 20 kilometers to the border. A few hundred meters before we got to the station, a tuk-tuk driver approached and offered his services. He was charming and the ride on a tuk-tuk sounded more fun than taking the bus. We agreed on 60000 kip total (vs.18000 kip per person by bus). 

We piled into the tuk-tuk and took off. But then the driver pulled over at his friend’s house and announced his friend would take us the rest of the way. Okay, his friend drove a songthew and the bigger vehicle is probably safer for the 20km ride. We enjoyed letting the breeze blow through as we made our way out of the city and into the country side.

We were let off at the curb immediately in front of the Laos exit point and got though the exit wicket. Thirty feet later, we hit the desk where an official wanted 9000 kip each to pass. We tried to blow through but it didn’t work. Michelle asked why we needed to pay a fee. "Overtime Fee" he explained. “It’s Sunday". Michelle asked if he was being paid overtime. “No. However you will need to pay the fee to get through” We pleaded poverty and said we didn’t have kip. He said he would take $3 USD for the two of us. I complained about his exchange rate and he just pointed me back toward the currency exchange office.  They let me change $2 at the proper rate of 8000 kip to the dollar and we paid the overtime fee and were through.

We jumped in line for the dollar shuttle that crosses the bridge to Thai Immigration. We had  our Thai visa already but it still took six stamps on our documents before we were officially in Thailand. A tuk-tuk line stood waiting to take us and and other dopes anywhere in town for 100 baht. That is a lot for the short ride to the train station, we complained. Three drivers had the same rate. They weren’t going to break the cartel. We walked a hundred yards and asked another driver who was waiting at the traffic circle. “30 baht ($1)”, he said. “Let’s go!” It was a longer drive than we expected. The driver waited while we got baht out of the ATM in front of the train station to pay him.

We paid 758 baht each ($25.26) for lower berths in the 2nd class sleeper car. We had read on-line that the brokers in town don’t have access to all the seats and they hold some back to sell at the station. We were happy they were not sold out. But we had also heard that Nong Khai was a nice little place to be stuck for the day or two.  In fact, a couple of Germans came riding by on hotel bicycles. They come to Thailand just to stay in laid back places like Nong Khai.

We broke out the cards for a game since we had a couple of hours to kill. Then Lolo and Laurence came in and got tickets. We later joined them for Thai food at a little outdoor restaurant across the road from the train station. We bought beer and cola for later on the train. We boarded, stowed our luggage and soon Lolo and Laurence arrived. We had a delightful conversation. They both quit their jobs before this trip to Asia. They want to get into something with more regular hours. They worked in a restaurant / bar and were seduced into working crazy hours when the tips would be good. They felt like their whole life was about work and making more and more money. Now they hope to get jobs with normal hours when they return home. And longer term? They hope to buy their own establishment and set it up the way they want. Who knows? They both definitely have great personalities that will help them become successful in that type of business.

Our party broke up at 8PM when the car attendant came to make the beds. Thai trains are great that way. The seats are converted into beds and fresh plastic wrapped sheets and pillows are used to make each one at bed time. The privacy curtains are great too.

Breakfast was served to those that ordered it at 06:20. The 06:35 arrival time was wrong. We were told later that Thai trains almost always leave on time but rarely arrive on time. We got into Bangkok station at 8:30 am. We never saw Lolo or Laurence on arrival but did catch up with Milan. The three of us shared a Taxi to Khao San.
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