With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Archive for the ‘Laos’ Category

$25 to Get Out of Laos

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 3, 2010

January 1, 2010

All Pictures

Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture Park

ATM Hunting

We knew since the first day at the resort that we were running out of money. The assistant manager told us that we could put our meals on a tab and pay it at the end of our stay with a credit card. When it was time to check out we handed her a visa card from a bank in Thailand. They didn’t have a machine to swipe the card. They had to call some company and this took a long time.

paying to enter Sala Kaew

After about 10 minutes on the phone, the assistant manager told us that the card would not work, but she couldn’t give us the reason. No problem, we have another card. I handed her my HSBC bank card from the US. I’ve used it all over the world and have never had any complications. After another 10 minutes she handed it back to me. It had expired. The expiration date, December 2009. If we had paid yesterday it would have worked!

Mark and I search through all the cash we had. We gave the lady some dollars, baht, and KIP. We had just enough money. We ask the lady to tell the taxi driver waiting for us, to take us to an ATM before heading to Friendship Bridge.

We got into the taxi and wondered why the Thai card didn’t work. The cab stopped at ATM number 1. We got out and scanned our card. The ATM was out-of-order. We got back into the taxi and he took us to another one.

Sure Buddha can relax. He always has enough cash.

At the next ATM stop we tried 3 different ATMs. None of them would take the Thai card. This is when we realized that it was not working because it was a Thai bank card. We showed the card to our driver and ask ” Is this bank in Laos?” “Yes”, he said and took us to the bank.

We pulled up to the Bank of Bangkok bank. It was closed for New Year’s day. All the ATMs were inside and locked away. “What are we going to do? We are stuck in Laos!” Then the driver said, “I have one more bank. It always works for foreigners.”

We pulled up to the bank. Mark put the Thai card in and it got rejected. I looked out at the driver parked outside and wondered, “How on earth are we going to pay him?” I looked at my HSBC card. “Why didn’t I take out money before we went to the resort? I could have had tons of money right now!”

Out of frustration I shoved my card into the ATM. I typed in my code and the thing started to make noise. I thought, “it’s teasing me by making money counting sounds.” Then it spat out 200,000KIP. We took our money and headed for the border.

How did an expired bank card work? Well, it was January 1st in Laos, but in the US where the card is from it was still December 31st, I guess.

The Bank of Bangkok ATM

The Bank of Bangkok

So what was going on with our Thai ATM card?

Well, for the Bank of Bangkok ATM cards, there is a form that you have to sign and hand in, if you want to be able to use your bank card in Laos. You don’t get this form when you sign up for the card; you have to specifically ask for it. It is very strange, because it is a visa bank card. It works in just about every country and in any ATM where a visa would work. I’ve used my Bank of Bangkok ATM card in the US and Japan without any problems. But Laos is the exception.

Buddha and his naga in Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture Park

Crossing the Border

Once at the Laos border we stood in line and eventually got through. We paid our 2,000KIP border fee and hopped on a 4,000KIP shuttle to get across the bridge. Once in Thailand the Thai bank card worked.

We did make a stop at the Buddha park in Nong Khai before catching our train back to Bangkok.

Nong Khai sleeper car for 2 to Bangkok

All Pictures


 

Thailand
(ราชอาณาจักรไทย)
(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.

Nong Khai
(เทศบาลเมืองหนองคาย)

Nong Khai is the town in Thailand nearest to Friendship Bridge and Vientiane, the capital city of Laos.

How to get there:

  • 17°53’02.4″N 102°45’02.8″E

From Bangkok:

by bus from Mo Chit Bus Station (10 hours):

  • 700Baht for 1st class bus – w/ toilet; 3 seats to a row
  • 350Baht for 2nd class bus – w/o toilet; 4 seats to a row
  • I don’t recommend anything lower that a 2nd class bus because only the 1st and 2nd class buses have a/c.

by Train from Bangkok from Hua Lamphong Train Station.

  • Here is the schedule from 2009.
  • 1,317Baht 1st class sleeper
  • Baht 2nd class sleeper w/ac
    • 708 (top)-778 (bottom)
  • I don’t recommend anything lower than a 2nd-class sleeper for this 10 hour journey. Normally I would always go for the a/c option, but on the train ride back to Bangkok in 1st-class’ a/c compartment I was freezing my butt off. We didn’t even turn on the berth’s a/c; it was the train itself that was so cold.

Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture Park
(ศาลาแก้วกู่)

How to get there:

  • 17°53’15.0″N 102°46’52.0″E
  • Take a tuk-tuk.
  • It shouldn’t cost you more that 100Baht one way.
    • If your haggling skills are top notch you can get it for much less.
  • There aren’t as many tuk-tuk drivers as in Bangkok, and almost no cabs, so you might not be able to play too hard to get.

cost:

Notes:

  • This was made by the same guy who built the Buddha park in Laos.
  • This one is nicer than the one in Laos.

The Nong Khai Train Station

How to get there:

  • 17°51’52.0″N 102°43’52.3″E
  • It’s a walk-able (20 minutes) distance from the Thai border Passport Control depending on how heavy your backpack is.
  • Just go straight and turn right at the first major road.
  • Keep going until you see the sign for the train station.
  • Follow the sign.

Notes:

  • There are restaurants across the street that sell take-out food boxes for passengers before they board the train. There is also food sold on the train, but the train’s kitchen will give you fewer options.
  •  There is a mini-museum/ library across the street from the train station, but it is not very interesting.
General Notes on Laos:
  • Even after everything that happened to us on this trip, I still recommend not getting too much KIP, because no one will take your KIP when you leave.
  • Instead take extra money in Baht, US Dollars, or Euro.
    • Try to get smaller bills, so you will have less change.
    • Most places will take Baht, US Dollars, or Euros, but will give you KIP as change.
      • The exchange rate you get at a shop is not as good as the rate you will get at a bank, but that is better than having $150 in KIP you can’t use once you lease Laos.
  • You can still try to get a bank, shop, or hotel in Laos buy your extra KIP. They might do it. But don’t take the KIP home! No one will take it outside Laos.
    • The airport in Laos, might be the best place to exchange your KIP for other currencies. (maybe)

Map:

Posted in Laos, Nong Khai, Thadokham, Thailand, Vientiane | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Going to the Country

Posted by Heliocentrism on January 2, 2010

December 30-31, 2009

All Pictures

Giant spiders means less flies, right?

A Really Bad Hotel

Mark and I kept seeing fliers for the Rivertime Resort, but we were checked into the Dork Champa Hotel for our entire stay in Laos. This was not a good move on our part, and I have vowed never to book more than one night at any hotel or hostel online again. If, after the first night, I like the place, then I will stay longer.

The Dork Champa was not that great. The staff seemed nice enough and they went out of their way to help us after the scooter crash. We asked for directions to a pharmacy. After looking at our bloody bandages that needed changing they decided to drive to the store and get to things we needed for us. That was really nice of them.

Their hearts were in the right place, but they did not know how to run a hotel. With time and experience I’m sure the Dork Champa will be a great place to stay. But while we were there, they were still learning how to run things.

Sun Set along the Mekong Delta

Right now they seemed to lack the know-how. The wi-fi that was advertised to be in every room, wasn’t. I had to go to the lobby to connect to the internet. While sitting there I noticed several guests asking for soap, toilet paper, and clean towels. My room was never cleaned nor my sheets changed while I was there. I too had to ask for more soap and toilet paper like all the other guests.

It seems that at this hotel and others in which I stayed while backpacking, the staff just didn’t understand how wi-fi works. They think that by just installing a wireless router that everywhere in their hotel will have wi-fi access. They don’t seem to realize that there is a limit to the wi-fi’s range.

One night we went the Dork Champa’s restaurant for dinner. The burger on the menu looked really good, so we ordered two. The waiter explained that there were out of beef, so we could either order something else or wait for them to run to the store. We chose to wait. It was worth it.

The burgers were really good. They were also a bit small, but that was no problem; they weren’t expensive at all. So, we ordered some more. Again the waiter told us that they were out of beef and someone had to run to the store.

on the Mekong Delta

During the nights I stay at the Dork Champa there was a thing outside my room that squeaked very loudly. Usually it made noise 3 or 4 times a night. But on the Monday night/ Tuesday morning it squeaked every 15-20 minutes during the night. At 6:00 in the morning I marched down to the front desk and ordered the clerk to follow me. I took him right outside my room so he could hear the racket for himself. I refused to stay there one more night.

Mark and I packed our bags and checked out. The people at the Dork Champa were nice enough to give us our money back. I was glad to get out of that hotel so I could get a good night’s sleep. Mark was glad to get away from the flies that seemed to always congregate outside his hotel room.

We went just a block away to The Laos Silk Hotel. This time we checked out the room before we checked in. Unfortunately they are not on hostelworld.com. The place was clean; no flies or squeaking. They had wireless routers on each of their 5 floors. We only stayed there for one night, so who knows how often they clean the rooms for non-checking out guests? But, it was a hell of a lot better than Dork Champa!

gas station

Out of Towning

The next day we headed for the Rivertime Resort for a little R&R. According to the resort’s brochure it should cost you about 20USD to get there from Vientiane. We got a tuk-tuk for 200,000KIP.

We were the slowest thing on the road. The only vehicles we managed to pass was a truck that was in reverse and a man pushing a cart. We eventually got there after getting lost and found again a couple of times.

red road

We enjoyed walking through the village, though there wasn’t much to see. It’s just a nice place to get away from city life and be close to nature and all her bugs.

The second day we took the half-a-day boat trip into Thangon, a nearby village. It really wasn’t worth it. It took 3 hours to get to the village of Thangon on a boat with a noisy motor and once there we were taken to a floating restaurant. Never mind that the resort we just came from had its own floating restaurant and that we floated for 3 hours to get there. Mark and I ordered food and began to eat. When we were almost done a waiter came over and asked if we would,  “like to sail down the river now?”

Which floating restaurant to choose?

After eating, and not sailing down the river, Mark and I took a walk around the village. We thought that this was going to be a bigger village than the one we saw the day before. We expected to see temples, shops, something…

It was richer. It had bigger houses; ones made with brick instead of bamboo. But it was not even as interesting as the first village we saw. There were no temples or shops. After walking about for 20 minutes with kip in our pockets wanting something to buy.  Mark and I sadly got back on the pontoon for the noisy 3 hour ride back home.

Ready to dock

If you go to Rivertime, take the 1 hour river ride not the half day one. The 1 hour ride comes with a visit to the village healer. The one to Thangon is just 6 hours of this:

It still could have been fun if the boat had more shade, we brought more pillows, or we could hear each other talk over the loud motor. It began to be uncomfortable when I had to pee. Out of desperation, I asked the driver to stop at the side of the river. After which I got off, climbed up a hill, and peed in front of a herd of cattle. They mooed disapprovingly.

New Year’s eve karaoke

Our New Year’s eve was filled with bad karaoke and strings being tied to our wrists for good luck. Which is perfect because we love bad karaoke and needed some good luck!

All Pictures


 

Laos 
(ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ)
(Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • You can get your visa before your trip to Laos, or you can buy a visa at the border.
  • How much your visa costs depends on your nationality.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Laotian embassy in your country.

Phone:

  • Tourism Authority +856-21-212251-Ext 103 or 101
  • Emergency Numbers
    • Police 191
    • Fire & Ambulance 190

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not get more kip than you need. No one will buy kip from you whenit’s time to leave Laos.
    • You can use baht here. Just know that your change will be in kip.
  • If you get really sick, try to go to Thailand.

Rivertime Resort and Ecolodge


How to get there
:

 

  • 18°09’34.6″N 102°44’04.9″E
  • This place is near Vientiane. (I still don’t know how to pronounce that word.)
  • It’s about 30 minutes to an hour out of the capital city depending on whether you’re in a speeding taxi cab or a tuk-tuk that’s about to fall apart.
  • Both seem to cost the same, though cabs are harder to find when you’re on the street.
  • If you have access to a phone, you can call a cab, if not, you might be doomed to take a tuk-tuk ride.

Cost:

  • 8USD per bed per night or
  • 38USD per night for a private room.
  • When we were there we took a shared room (8USD per bed) but it was just the 2 of us in the room.
  • According to the resort’s brochure it should cost you about 20USD to get there from Vientiane.

Notes:

  • You can pay for your entire stay by credit card, though it takes a long time to process.
  • It’s easier and less nerve-racking if you pay in cash; USD, THB, or KIP.
  • Make sure to visit an ATM before you go to Rivertime Resort. There are no ATMs near the resort.
  • Bring bug spray, shampoo, and anything else you might need or want. There are no stores nearby.
  • The Resort provides towels, bedding, soap, toilet paper, internet, and even some books.
  • The water you shower with does smell funny. It comes from underground and might contain sulfur.

Map:

Posted in Laos, Thadokham, Thangon | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

2 days of Visa

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 31, 2009

December 28-29, 2009

All Pictures

The Thai Consular Office in Laos

What Visa?

Before Mark and I left Bangkok we made a visit to the HR department of our company. There the lady in charge of helping with work permits told us what to do to get a visa. She made copies of the visas and stamps in our passports, printed out the visa application form for us, and told us that we needed 1,000THB for the visa. She told us to get the non-immigrant visa, but she never gave us a letter saying we were guaranteed jobs.

When we got to the Thai Embassy in Laos, we found out that we needed this letter to get the non-immigrant visa. Since we didn’t have one, we got the 2 month tourist visa instead. I e-mailed the HR lady, explaining what happened. She said that everything was okay and that we can change it to the non-immigrant visa when we get back to Thailand.

Personally I think that she just forgot about the letter.

The visa I have now is a 2 month tourist visa and it says I can’t work. I already have a job and have been working for the past 2 weeks. But in Thailand laws are bendable, so whatcha gonna do about it?

But that’s the crazy thing about working in Thailand. You can’t get a visa to work in Thailand until you have a job. If you have a job, they expect you to work. But you can’t work until you get the visa. But companies don’t want to get visas for workers until they have worked for the company for a few weeks or months.

Laotian Dancing

It’s like a school play

Vientiane is a town with nothing much going on. You can see everything this town has to offer in half a day. So when Mark and I saw a sign for a dinner theater during one of our strolls around town, we were excited.

We went to the show the next day. The food was okay. Laotian food is okay. The show was really bad. Most of the dancers seemed to hate being there. The music wasn’t that good and they were only lip synchingking.

There was a tour group. I’m not sure where they were from, but they were very loud and obnoxious. They would just stand up and yell across the room to each other in the middle of the performance. The show was bad, but I still wanted to see and hear what I paid for in peace.

The tour group left early and once they were gone things got better. Not the performance. The show was still pretty lame, but the actors seemed to be having fun once the group and their antics, were out of there. When the dancer started to have fun, I enjoyed the show more. It was still bad though.

All Pictures


 

Laos 
(ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ)
(Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • You can get your visa before your trip to Laos, or you can buy a visa at the border.
  • How much your visa costs depends on your nationality.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Laotian embassy in your country.

Phone:

  • Tourism Authority +856-21-212251-Ext 103 or 101
  • Emergency Numbers
    • Police 191
    • Fire & Ambulance 190

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not get more kip than you need. No one will buy kip from you whenit’s time to leave Laos.
    • You can use baht here. Just know that your change will be in kip.
  • If you get really sick, try to go to Thailand.

Vientiane
(ວຽງຈັ)
(เวียงจันทน์)

How to get there:

There are buses that take you from the Nong Khai bus station to Vientiane’s bus station.

    1. The first stop is at Thai immigration. Everybody gets off the bus and goes through the passport control. The buses are sometimes packed with people standing in the aisle, so I don’t know how they know when everyone is back on the bus. But, they do.
    2. Then they take you over Friendship Bridge and into Laos.
    3. The next stop is at Laos immigration. Once again everyone gets off and on again after passing through passport control. If you need to get a visa for Laos, bring a passport-sized photo of yourself and head to the “visa at the Border” line. It is the shortest line and it’s not the line where everyone else is standing. There is a sign posted that gives the cost of the visa depending on what country you are from. Once you get your passport back you can skip the other lines and just walk into the country.
    4. Then the bus takes you to the bus terminal in downtown Vientiane.

If you take the train to Nong Khai and take a tuk-tuk to the Thailand Passport control don’t worry. There is a shuttle for about 20THB that goes between the Thai and Laos immigration. So, there is no need to go to the bus station for the shuttle into Laos.

At the Laotian border, there are many cabs, tuk-tuk, and shuttles into Vientiane.

Notes:

In Vientiane you can use Baht. Your change will be in Laotian KIP, though. Don’t get too much KIP because it’s hard to exchange KIP for anything else when you leave.


Thai Consular Office

How to get there:

  • 17°57’53.8″N 102°37’27.6″E
  • The Thai Embassy is near Patuxai. But for visa you will need the consular office.
  • The best way for me to explain how to get there is for you to first go to the most northeast part Patuxai near the World Peace Gong.
  • From there you will see 3 roads passing Patuxai. Take the most easterly one or the one on the far right one.
  • You can also just go down Lang Xang until it turns into That Laung.
  • Go about one block and turn right at the Vietnam Embassy.
  • You will pass one intersection with a traffic light.
  • Turn left when you pass a building claiming to be a business college.
  • You will see a herd of tuk-tuk drivers and scam artists.
  • Don’t talk to any of them; they can’t help you and will just waste your time.

Phone:

  • (+856) 21 453916 between 13.30 – 16.30  only

Hours:

  • 8:30 – 11:30 visa application submission only
  • 13:30 – 15:30 visa/passport pick-up only

What you need: This is what I know for US citizens at this point in time. The law changes quite often.

Tourist Visa (1 month):

  • Just head to the border. There is no charge. And you don’t need to go to the consular office.

Tourist Visa (2 months): There is no fee.

  • 2 passport sized photos of yourself
  • the application form.
  1. Go to the consular office and take a number.
  2. Hand in your stuff then come back at 13:00 the next day.
  3. Take another number; this time for passport pick up.

Non-immigrant Visa:

  • 2 photos,
  • the application form,
  • a photocopy of all the stamps and visas in your passport,
  • a letter from your employer,
  • 2,000Baht (single entry) or 5,000Baht (multiple Entries).
  1. Go to the consular office  and take a number.
  2. Hand in your stuff then come back at 13:00 the next day.
  3. Take another number; this time for passport pick up.

What they have at the consular office:

  • The application forms,
  • scissors,
  • glue,
  • pens (though it would be better if you brought your own)
  • copier (for a fee)

Notes:

  • When things are busy you could spend a long time waiting. Bring some food, drinks, and a blanket and have a picnic on the lawn. (The lawn there is quite lovely.)
  • You can only turn in your visa application in the morning.
  • All fees must be paid in cash in the form of Thai Baht.

Pha That Luang
(ພຣະທາດຫຼວງ)

How to get there:

  • 17°58’36.7″N 102°38’11.1″E
  • Go down Lang Xang until it turns into That Laung.
  • This leads right into Pha That Luang.

Cost:

  • 2,000KIP

Hours:

  • Tue – Sun 8:00-16:00

Notes:

  • There is a legend that part of Buddha’s breast plate is kept here, though no one has ever proven it.

Phatoke Laoderm (dinner theater)

How to get there:

  • 17°58’01.9″N 102°36’13.8″E

Use this Map.

Cost:

  • 12USD

Hours:

  • 19:00 – 21:00 or
  • 19:30 – 21:30

Phone:

  • +856-21-263 981
  • +856-20-5411 019

Website:

Notes:

  • It’s better that doing nothing and the food is okay.

Map:

Posted in Laos, Vientiane | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Ganesh Couldn’t Save Me

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 27, 2009

December 27, 2009

All Pictures

Mark having his wounds cleaned by some kind Laotians

It’s okay Lady, my camera’s fine

I don’t even want to talk about it… Mark wanted to do it. He wanted to rent the scooter.

You see, I rented a scooter on my trip to Taiwan, and Mark has been dying to try one out for himself ever since. But when I had a scooter the roads were lonely. Most of the people drove sanely. And, it was just me on the bike.

I’m still bleeding as I write this. When two people are on a bike the center of gravity is a little higher than with only one rider. You have to make bigger turns. It takes longer to stop. It does not help when people, other commuters, are driving on the wrong side of the road in their trucks. I will let Mark tell you the rest.

I would like to confess that after the crash, when I got off the side of the road, my first thought was, “Is my camera alright?” I looked at Mark and saw that he was okay. He could stand and walk around and that’s a good sign. He asked me if I was okay, but I was too stunned to respond. I still needed to check on my camera.

A Laotian lady came running over to me to lead me to a faucet where I could wash off the mud, dirt, and blood from my arms and legs and assess the damage. She pointed out all my cuts to me and was very concerned about my welfare. My hand did look like I had just pulled it out of a jar of strawberry jam. All I wanted to say was, “It’s okay lady, my camera’s fine.”

Once things settled down and I started thinking straight, I began to feel nauseous. I almost threw up when it hit me that things could have been a lot worse.

And in case you, dear reader, are wondering… The camera did sustain a hard blow. There are a few dents on the camera near its lens, but it still takes great pictures. I just need to get the lens cleaned, but it will be just fine, don’t you worry.

This camera is amazing. This isn’t the first time that it was dropped or in an accident. This is just the first time I was in an accident with it. This camera takes some wonderful photos and, even though it is not marketed as such, it can take a beating! If I ever need to buy another camera it will just be another version of this one.

At Buddha Park in Laos

Let’s not keep Ganesh waiting.

At first we thought that we should just ride back into town and get some real first aid supplies. The people from the area made home-made bandages for us with gauze and scotch tape. It was functional and not fancy.

But we were way closer to the Buddha park than we were to town. Besides, when would we ever come back to Laos? We decided to go to the park and seek medical attention later. We were hurt, but not badly hurt. We did look a bit banged up though.

Stairs are harder to walk down after a scooter accident .

I’m glad we pressed on and saw the park. It was a fun afternoon. The only problem was knowing that we had a long scooter ride back to town.

We returned the scooter as soon as we got back even though it wasn’t due until the next morning. The scooter guy was surprised to see us. He was about to ask why we came back so early when he saw our legs and the broken mirror. “Oh, you fall off? Sorry. Be more careful next time.”

No. Scooter-Man, there will never be a next time. NEVER!

All Pictures


 

Laos 
(ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ)
(Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • You can get your visa before your trip to Laos, or you can buy a visa at the border.
  • How much your visa costs depends on your nationality.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Laotian embassy in your country.

Phone:

  • Tourism Authority +856-21-212251-Ext 103 or 101
  • Emergency Numbers
    • Police 191
    • Fire & Ambulance 190

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not get more kip than you need. No one will buy kip from you whenit’s time to leave Laos.
    • You can use baht here. Just know that your change will be in kip.
  • If you get really sick, try to go to Thailand.

Vientiane
(ວຽງຈັ)
(เวียงจันทน์)

How to get there:

There are buses that take you from the Nong Khai bus station to Vientiane’s bus station.

    1. The first stop is at Thai immigration. Everybody gets off the bus and goes through the passport control. The buses are sometimes packed with people standing in the aisle, so I don’t know how they know when everyone is back on the bus. But, they do.
    2. Then they take you over Friendship Bridge and into Laos.
    3. The next stop is at Laos immigration. Once again everyone gets off and on again after passing through passport control. If you need to get a visa for Laos, bring a passport-sized photo of yourself and head to the “visa at the Border” line. It is the shortest line and it’s not the line where everyone else is standing. There is a sign posted that gives the cost of the visa depending on what country you are from. Once you get your passport back you can skip the other lines and just walk into the country.
    4. Then the bus takes you to the bus terminal in downtown Vientiane.

If you take the train to Nong Khai and take a tuk-tuk to the Thailand Passport control don’t worry. There is a shuttle for about 20THB that goes between the Thai and Laos immigration. So, there is no need to go to the bus station for the shuttle into Laos.

At the Laotian border, there are many cabs, tuk-tuk, and shuttles into Vientiane.

Notes:

In Vientiane you can use Baht. Your change will be in Laotian KIP, though. Don’t get too much KIP because it’s hard to exchange KIP for anything else when you leave.


Renting a Scooter

Cost:

  • 50,000 – 90,000KIP depending on your bargaining skills

Where:

  • Every other corner in Vientiane

Who can:

  • Anyone who owns a passport and can walk upright

Notes:

  • Don’t make sharp turns.
  • Beware of people who drive on the wrong side of the road.
  • Beware of one way roads that don’t really indicate that they are in fact one way roads.
  • If possible don’t wear shorts.
    • Wear thick jeans and maybe some leather gloves.
    • In fact, why not just take a cab?
  • Accidents are covered by the rental companies’ insurance. You on the other hand will need your own insurance. Make sure your travel insurance covers scooter accidents.

Patuxai
(ປະຕູໄຊ)

How to get there:

  • 17°58’14.1″N 102°37’06.8″E

It’s in the middle of town on Lan Xang road

Cost:

  • It’s pretty much free to look at.
  • If you want to go upstairs to see the city it will cost you 2,000KIP (.25USD).
  • There are many vendors inside on your way up where you can buy overpriced tacky souvenirs.
    • Okay, the souvenirs aren’t really that expensive, they just aren’t worth the asking price.
    • But I assure you, they are quite tacky.

Hours:

  • Mon-Fri 8:00-16:30
  • Sat-Sun 8:00-17:00

Website

Notes:

  • Basically the US gave Laos money to build an Airport. Laos took the money and somehow ended up building this eye sore instead.
  • It’s not that spectacular, but it is the thing to see when in Vientiane.
  • The view from the top is not that great. You really pay to go to the top, to say you went up there.
  • There is no free scooter parking near this thing.

That Dam 
(ທາດດຳ)
(Black Stupa)

How to get there:

  • 17°57’57.5″N 102°36’40.0″E

From Patuxai:

  • Head down the main road, Lan Xang toward the Mekong delta.
  • After the 3rd intersection turn right. This turn is not an intersection.
  • It should lead to a round-about that is around That Dam.

Cost:

Free

Hours:

  • This is out in the open, so you can view it at any time.
  • The area is not well lit, so you might want to get there before dark.

Notes:

  • Don’t expect too much and don’t go out of your way to see That Dam.
  • It’s not very interesting.
  • This is supposed to have been the home of a naga that helped keep the Thai army from invading Laos years ago.
  • It’s just nice enough for you to visit if you are nearby.
  • There is nothing that special about That Dam, so if you’ve seen other stupas before, there’s no need to see this one.
  • There is no real parking area, but you can park on the side of the road in the grass. You won’t be here long enough to get in anyone’s way.

Buddha Park
(Xieng Khuan)
(ວັດຊຽງຄວນ)
(วัดเซียงควน)

How to get there:

  • 17°54’44.3″N 102°45’55.2″E
  • Go along Fa Ngum, the road that runs along the Mekong Delta.
  • I think this road turns or ends. When this happens just turn right and keep going straight.
  • You should only turn left when you come to a round-about with a clock in the middle of it. The clock will have a Laotian and a Japanese flag on it.
  • You should be able to see the Mekong Delta  on your right for most of your trip. When in doubt, stop and ask for directions. Be sure to have the name of the park written in Laotian.
  • Then keep going straight. You will pass under Friendship Bridge and a thousand and one temples. Just keep going straight.
  • It will be on your right. You can’t miss it. There is a field with large cement statues and a sign that says, “Buddha Park”.

Cost:

  • 5,000KIP per person
  • 2,000KIP per camera.

Map:

Posted in Laos, Vientiane | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Non-Immigrant Visa for Thailand

Posted by Heliocentrism on December 27, 2009

December 25-26, 2009

All Pictures

Dinner in Laos along the MeKong Delta

Non-Immigrant Visa

The main reason why Mark and I went to Laos was the same reason most people go to Laos; to get a non-immigrant visa so that we can apply to get a visa to work in Thailand. So the question is, “How does one get a work permit to work in Thailand?” Well, it’s seems that very few people know.

You see the problem is that the Thai government keeps changing the laws, so that even the people who obtained a nonimmigrant visa 6 months ago cannot give anyone any advice. So what I say below might not even be true by the time you read this.

The lady who works at the HR department at our company told Mark and me that we first needed to go to Laos, find the Thai embassy there, then apply for a nonimmigrant visa, then re-enter Thailand. That sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The way things have worked out for us with the New Year’s holidays, is that we have a whole week to play around in Laos when we should really be back at work grading tons of mid-term exams. Unfortunately, since I cannot come into work my boss is the one with the stacks of exams and the red pen. Well, unfortunate for him…

We’ll see how things unfold…

Thai Government Bus to Nong Khai

Thai Long Distance Buses

I will not go all the way and say that I strongly recommend not getting on a Thai long distance bus. There are many places in Thailand that the train just does not go. But let me just say this:

1. It’s uncomfortable.

Let’s ignore the bumping around, the guy snoring in the seat behind me, the fact that every time a Thai gets his or her hands on an a/c unit* they have to make the room or bus feel like the inside of a refrigerator, and the dirty bathroom or lack thereof. I am 5’9″ (175cm). I just don’t fit in the seats. Unless I’m in a 1st class bus, I feel a bit squished.

*This is not only true with the Thais, but any people who live in a warm climate. Floridians do this to the point that you always need to bring a sweater with you when you leave the house in case you need to go indoors.

2. It’s dangerous!

Somewhere along this ride, maybe around midnight, I woke up. Looking out the window, seeing trees whoosh by, I realized that we were going way too fast for a bus on a 2-lane, unlit road. What if we hit something. Just then we sped past an overturned truck with a passenger or driver running around frantically.

To make this story at bit more sensational I will tell you that this was the 2nd truck accident I saw that night. The first one looked as if a piano had fallen on a truck. I’m sure that if I could have stayed awake longer I would have seen more.

I think the bus driver saw the same overturned truck that I did, because soon after we passed it, he slowed down and paced himself the rest of the way. It’s nice having a bus driver who wants to live.

Looking for a place to eat in Laos

I’m convinced that all tuk-tuk drivers are out to get us!

I don’t know what it is about Mark and me, but we’ve never had a tuk-tuk driver quote us a reasonably overprice cost for a ride. Once, while just 2 skytrain stops away from the Siam Center, we asked a tuk-tuk driver how much it would cost to get to said Siam Center. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “200Baht”. Are you freaking kidding me!? We eventually took an air-conditioned taxi, got stuck in traffic and it still only cost 45Baht.

Tuk-tuks cheaper than taxis… my eye!

Merry Communist Christmas!

When we arrived at the bus station in Vientiane, we were approached by scores of tuk-tuk drivers. Even though the bus was packed with tons of people standing in the aisle there seemed to be more tuk-tuk drivers than potential customers.

They swarmed around Mark and me, getting in our way. We had to push a few tuk-tuk drivers aside so that we could get to our backpacks. I showed a tuk-tuk driver the address to our hostel. He didn’t seem to know where it was, but he told me that could take us there for 200Baht; the magic number! “How can you take us there for 200Baht when you don’t know where there is?”

When Mark and I looked at the map we realized that the hostel was within walking distance. I know 200Baht isn’t a lot of money. 200Baht is about 7USD, but Mark and I work for Baht now. The way we think about it is, dinner usually costs us about 50-60Baht each, including drinks, when we eat out. This tuk-tuk driver wanted to charge us the cost of 4 dining out meals for a 5 minute ride.

We decided to walk instead.

All Pictures


Laos 
(ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ)
(Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • You can get your visa before your trip to Laos, or you can buy a visa at the border.
  • How much your visa costs depends on your nationality.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Laotian embassy in your country.

Phone:

  • Tourism Authority +856-21-212251-Ext 103 or 101
  • Emergency Numbers
    • Police 191
    • Fire & Ambulance 190

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not get more kip than you need. No one will buy kip from you whenit’s time to leave Laos.
    • You can use baht here. Just know that your change will be in kip.
  • If you get really sick, try to go to Thailand.

Mo Chit Long Distance Bus Station
(North/Northeastern Bus Terminal)
(สถานีขนส่งสายเหนือ)
(sathanii Mo Chit)

This bus station is used to get buses heading north and northeast as the name implies.

How to get there:

  • 13°48’40.1″N 100°32’52.3″E

All the travel guides will tell you that it’s near Chatuchak Park which is near the Mo Chit Skytrain station. What they fail to tell you is that Chatuchak is a freakishly large park and being in this park doesn’t guarantee that you are near anything, much less the bus station.

-By bus (recommended):

  • walk to your nearest bus stop and look for any of the buses, listed below, headed in the bus station’s direction. I still have not figured out how to find this information before boarding a public bus in Bangkok, so ask the people standing nearby.
  • The Terminal is the last stop for all these buses.
  • bus #: 49, 77, 104, 122, 136, 145, 159, 170, 509, 517, 523, 547

Address:

999 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, Chatuchak, Chatuchak, Bangkok, 10900

Phone:

  • +66 (0) 2936 2841-3

Notes:

Ladies, if you need to use the bathroom when the station is crowded, plan of spending at least 15 minutes waiting in line. …and bring 3 Baht with you and of course, your own TP.


Nong Khai
(เทศบาลเมืองหนองคาย)

Nong Khai is the town in Thailand nearest to Friendship Bridge and Vientiane, the capital city of Laos.

How to get there:

  • 17°53’02.4″N 102°45’02.8″E

From Bangkok:

by bus from Mo Chit Bus Station (10 hours):

  • 700Baht for 1st class bus – w/ toilet; 3 seats to a row
  • 350Baht for 2nd class bus – w/o toilet; 4 seats to a row
  • I don’t recommend anything lower that a 2nd class bus because only the 1st and 2nd class buses have a/c.

by Train from Bangkok from Hua Lamphong Train Station.

  • Here is the schedule from 2009.
  • 1,317Baht 1st class sleeper
  • Baht 2nd class sleeper w/ac
    • 708 (top)-778 (bottom)
  • I don’t recommend anything lower than a 2nd-class sleeper for this 10 hour journey. Normally I would always go for the a/c option, but on the train ride back to Bangkok in 1st-class’ a/c compartment I was freezing my butt off. We didn’t even turn on the berth’s a/c; it was the train itself that was so cold.

Vientiane
(ວຽງຈັ)
(เวียงจันทน์)

How to get there:

There are buses that take you from the Nong Khai bus station to Vientiane’s bus station.

    1. The first stop is at Thai immigration. Everybody gets off the bus and goes through the passport control. The buses are sometimes packed with people standing in the aisle, so I don’t know how they know when everyone is back on the bus. But, they do.
    2. Then they take you over Friendship Bridge and into Laos.
    3. The next stop is at Laos immigration. Once again everyone gets off and on again after passing through passport control. If you need to get a visa for Laos, bring a passport-sized photo of yourself and head to the “visa at the Border” line. It is the shortest line and it’s not the line where everyone else is standing. There is a sign posted that gives the cost of the visa depending on what country you are from. Once you get your passport back you can skip the other lines and just walk into the country.
    4. Then the bus takes you to the bus terminal in downtown Vientiane.

If you take the train to Nong Khai and take a tuk-tuk to the Thailand Passport control don’t worry. There is a shuttle for about 20THB that goes between the Thai and Laos immigration. So, there is no need to go to the bus station for the shuttle into Laos.

At the Laotian border, there are many cabs, tuk-tuk, and shuttles into Vientiane.

Notes:

In Vientiane you can use Baht. Your change will be in Laotian KIP, though. Don’t get too much KIP because it’s hard to exchange KIP for anything else when you leave.

Map:

 

Posted in Bangkok, Laos, Thailand, Vientiane | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: