Friday, October 12, 2012

On The Rail: Laos to Thailand by Train

From Luang Prabang, I met this American backpacker, Kim… she’s heading to Phuket. She’s supposed to ride the sleeper bus to Thailand from Vientiane, but upon realizing that it’s cheaper to take the train, she decided to tag along with me.

After almost 12 hour  bus ride, we arrived the northern bus station in Vientiane. We took the public tuktuk to the central bus station, near Talat Sao Mall. (fare: 20,000kip)

mornings at the central bus station in Vientiane

I made two options for my return journey to Nong Khai station, from Vientiane city centre.

First, I will be doing the reverse of what I did when I first arrive from Bangkok. Hire a tuk tuk back to Thanaleng station… that will cost me 300 baht or more… then ride the border train to cross the bridge over Mekong River. With this option, I needed to arrive Thanaleng station before 5pm, because the last trip schedule of Thanaleng-Nong Khai train is 5pm.We tried bargaining with tuk tuk and van drivers, but they’re just very expensive. I only have few bucks left. This led us to my other option – later I realized was the cheaper and better and more comfortable option.

Second, is to ride the local bus from the central bus station in Vientiane to Nong Khai bus station. Fare is only 15,000 kip. Then from Nong Khai bus station, hire a tuk tuk to Nong Khai railway station – standard tuk tuk rate is 50 baht per person, but Kim and I was able to bargain for 60baht for two persons. Haha. Seriously, you need to master your haggling skills if you’re dealing with tuk tuk drivers.

So we decided to take the bus to Nong Khai station. I was hesitant about the second option because I thought we will be riding an ordinary, non-AC bus. But I was surprised when I saw this one. After all, we will be crossing the border…

In all fairness, it was way more comfortable than riding the tuk tuk. From the central bus station, we dropped off the Lao Immigration for our departure stamp... and the border immigration in Nong Khai for our arrival stamp to Thailand. It was very quick and easy.


After getting you passports back and finally crossing Nong Khai border immigration, you don’t need to ride the bus again… because the railway station is just a 10-15 minute walk away from the border. Just ask for directions. With this, you can save at least 30baht for the tuk tuk ride from the terminal.

It was too late for us to realize this when we saw the signage directing to the railway station. We wanted to halt the bus driver but we were too shy to do so. So we arrive in the bus station and we were mobbed by the ever present and ever persuasive tuk tuk drivers. Funny, they didn’t actually care about me, as I look very local to them. It was my white complexioned companion, Kim, that they continued to crowd around before she can even get her luggage in the bus compartment.

The one and only driver we asked charged us with whooping 60 baht per person to the railway station. He even showed us their taripa. But we walked away. He followed us to the other side of the terminal until he agreed to our price of 30 baht per person.

We hopped into the tuk tuk and after 10 minutes, we arrive in Nong Khai railway station.

Kim was able to purchase one second class upper deck sleeper bed for 488 baht… just across my assigned bed. I bought my roundtrip tickets in Hualamphong  Railway station the day I travelled to Laos.

Arriving in the station four hours early from your estimated departure time can be very boring… good thing Nong Khai railway station has free wifi, though not very stable, but just enough to check FB messages and update one’s status. Haha.

They also have shower rooms… bigger and cleaner than the ones in Hualamphong railway station. I had no plans taking a bath, but upon feeling the lukewarm waters of the shower, I decided to have one.  

sunset somewhere in Thailand

The train departed the station at exactly 620pm, and was expected to arrive in Bangkok railway station at 625 the next morning. Apparently, it did not happen. We arrive in the station at around eight in the morning.

Now I’m back to Bangkok.

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