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Archive for the ‘Thadokham’ 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


(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.






  • 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

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

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.



  • 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.


  • 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)


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

(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.


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




  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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

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