We didn’t really have much of plan for after Chiang Mai, but knew the general direction we wanted to head in, so we caught a train to Phitsanulok, a small town about 7 hours south east of Chiang Mai, ready to just wing it when we got there. This was a pretty good plan and we were glad we hadn’t booked a room for thing night, as we soon realised that it wasn’t a place that had much to offer the few tourists who pass through it.
We sat down for a quick coffee and to come up with a new plan of action…eventually we decided that we’d head to the bus station and see where we could go, aiming for either Khon Kaen or Nong Khai, both n the way to the border crossing into Laos. After having a read about Khon Kaen in my guide book, we chose to get an overnight bus (oh the joys) to Udon Thani and then a train to Nong Khai. The bus actually wasn’t that bad, and we all slept most of the way, arriving in Udon Thani early on Monday morning. Unfortunately, after paying 120 Baht for a taxi to the train station, we discovered that the train was delayed…by 6 hours! So back to the bus station we went, and after about 2 hours we arrived in Nong Khai, a sleepy little riverside town, right across the Mekong from Laos.
The night before, whilst waiting in Phitsanulok for our bus, we had found a small internet place where we’d booked ourselves a room in a lush, brand new hotel in the centre of Nong Khai…we thought we’d treat ourselves after our long 26 hour journey. And to be honest, it wasn’t even really that expensive!
Nong Khai itself is a very lovely little place, with a big market and plenty of restaurants and bars that run right along the river front. We strolled around for a few hours that afternoon, finding a nice place to eat and relax before going back to the hotel for a nap and some photo-uploading time (we wanted to take advantage of the speedy internet, for once!). In the evening Rosa and I headed back out for some food and found the place to be absolutely dead quiet, with only about 2 bars open, the most lively being a place called ‘Warm Up’, which had good food and live music – two Thai boys singing covers of things like Jason Mraz and Bruno Mars…thoroughly enjoyable!
After an awesome nights sleep we rose fairly early, got our free breakfast from the hotel and then headed to the Friendship Bridge (the Thai-Lao border crossing) to get stamped out of Thailand and get our visas for entering Laos. The whole process was so simple, we were done and dusted and in central Vientiane within about 2 hours. Then started the hunt for a place to stay…I had a few options selected out of the Lonely Planet guidebook but the first two we went to were already full. Not to despair though…it seems that every second building here in Vientiane is a hotel or guesthouse, so soon enough we found a lovely place called Souphaphone Guesthouse, and for only 240,000 Kip (between three people – about £4.50 each) for an en-suite three bed room, we were sold!
And so this is where I’ll leave you…Vientiane seems great so far, it’s really chilled and definitely fits with the whole stereotype of Laos being a very slowed paced place to be…loving it!