Friday, October 12, 2012

On The Rail: Thailand to Laos by Train

Moving on from my tragic airport story, I went straight to the Hualamphong Railway Station (Bangkok’s main railway station) to officially start my second solo backpacking. 

Destination: Laos.

I won’t be more interested travelling to Laos if not for the train connection between Thailand’s last train station (Nong Khai) and Laos’ first station (Thanaleng). You see, only the great Mekong River separates the two countries that can be crossed hassle free through the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge. You can also fly to Laos from Thailand, but that’s not really one of my options.

So from Hualamphong Railway station in Bangkok, I secured my second class sleeper train tickets for 488 baht. It’s a non-AC coach with tiny roaches everywhere. Not really advisable for maaarte (fussy) travelers. I read it’s cheaper when you get the upper bed, so I chose one and it’s s little safer from the brown colored crawling insects. Sleeper train number 69 departs Bangkok to Nong Khai at 8pm. (for other reference, click here.)

It was my first time to be in a public railway station as big as Hualamphong station, after all it’s the main Bangkok Railway station. I’ve seen the PNR station in Naga, and I don’t want to compare it with the one in Bangkok. Haha.

After purchasing my tickets, I immediately asked for their shower room. I read somewhere they have one, so I started to roam around. I won’t be checking in into a hotel in two days, so this shower room will be of great comfort to my stinky body.

shower for 20baht

This isn’t a Venetian Hotel shower room not even close to a regular hotel shower room but if you’re not really choosy and you need to washen up your filthy bodies, this can suffice your needs.

The railway station also has left baggage counter. It’s opposite the ticket counter. Here, you can leave your heavy bags for a minimum fee. Small bags for 50 baht, medium bags for 60 baht, large bags for 70 baht… and 80-100 baht for extra large bags.

Just above the left luggage counter, you will find one internet shop. If you badly needed to get in touch online, this can be your only option in the station. They charge differently if you’re using their computer for internet surfing ... or if you want to connect to their wifi using your own device.

There are a lot of food stalls inside the station. They also had food court area, where you can buy coupon in exchange for food. Like other food court restaurants in Bangkok, you will be refunded for the unused coupon.

30baht with water - kasi sa tingin ko ito lang ang kaya kong kainin 

I didn't finish my meal, my taste buds cannot just tolerate the very unfamiliar taste. So I went out the food court and leisurely walked the vicinity of the station. Tried looking for the platform 9 and ¾ but I failed.. (I  realized, it’s not in Bangkok.. haha)

Our train was scheduled to leave Huamlaphong station at 8pm, but it started to move at around 830pm.

 train to Nong Khai at Platform #5

 inside second class, non-AC sleeper coach

 lower beds are convertible chairs joined into one... see photo below

 now, that's the lower and upper beds of a second class sleeper train in Thailand

 my first official overnight accommodation
unofficial overnight yung sa airport..haha

It was a small but modest, I must say I had a pretty good sleep overnight with my upper deck bed… Why wouldn't I, been awake for more than 24 hours… half of it was spend in the airport, fighting starvation, overcoming disgrace and shame, while de-stressing oneself about an unforgivable mistake of having poor memory. Talk about old age. Haha.

Fast forward:

We were supposed to arrive in Nong Khai station at 825am, but it was already 830, yet we’re still few stations away from our destination. Had I known, I shouldn’t have woken up early.

 mornings somewhere in Thailand

anong petsa na, 20 km pa?!

Few more hours from our estimated arrival time, we reached Nong Khai station. From here, I had to ride another train to cross the Thai-Lao friendship bridge, going to Thanaleng station in Ventienne, the capital city of Laos. (fare: 20baht)

 another 15-minute train ride to cross the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge

 hello Mekong father says hi! 

Arriving Thanaleng station means passing the Lao Immigration…this is hassle free for Asian people…

Thanaleng station is in the middle of nowhere. It’s very far from the city centre and the only option for a ride is to hire a tuk tuk or van which is very visible in the area. Problem is they charge too much. Well, 300 baht for a tuktuk ride is too much for budget traveler like me, whose money is just enough for a five day economical adventure.

So after checking the price of the tuk tuk, I started asking other foreign backpackers where they’re heading. Luckily, I was able to convince four men to share the 300 baht tuk tuk ride to Ventienne. It wasn’t that hard, they were just waiting for me to approach them about the ride. Haha.

my first friends in Laos (two Japanese, one american, one Russian...) forgot their names...haha 

The tuk tuk ride took at least 45 minutes from Thanaleng station to the city centre – the central bus station (near Talat Sao Mall).

Now, I’m officially in Laos.

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