For your convenience, please refer to The Journey for the itinerary and the latest updates.
Distance covered today: 20km
Distance traveled from Guangzhou: 2,632km
Distance remaining to Singapore: 2,472km
Fact of the day: Driving is on the left side on the Friendship Bridge because the project was sponsored by Japan.
While I was checking out, Song (the Mandarin-speaking receptionist) was outside the guesthouse waiting for his neighbors. Apparently his neighbor accidentally knocked over his motorcycle while reversing a vehicle (one of the many Toyota Hilux-es in Laos) and the neighbor wanted to take some photos of the damage (for payment of damages). Song asked me where I was heading and told me that I could go with him (he was heading the same way) if I didn’t mind waiting a bit.
Song and I began to chat. He is from southern Laos and is currently studying while helping out at his relative’s guesthouse. His girlfriend is studying in Kunming now and he hopes to join her in studying there. As his mother is originally from Guangdong, he is able to speak Cantonese and Mandarin in addition to Lao, Thai and Vietnamese. An effectively bilingual me felt so inadequate talking to these multilingual people.
He would take me on his motorcycle to the main road where we would get a bus to the Friendship Bridge. He even paid for my bus fare but I insisted that he shouldn’t. He showed me around the duty free shops and wanted to introduce his friend to me. His friend, a Chinese businesswoman, wasn’t around then and I bidded farewell to him amid the light rain that started falling.
The immigration was painless; I didn’t need to pay any departure tax but the locals and some of the foreigners are required to. Then I changed all my remaining kip to baht at the currency exchange booth after the immigration counters and caught the shuttle cross the bridge for 4,000 LAK.
Passing Thailand’s immigration was equally painless but I lost my way walking to the train station. It was about 15 minutes’ walk but I missed the turn and was even chased by a pair of dogs. After much trial and tribulations, I managed to get to Nong Khai (KM 2632) train station.
I checked with the station officer about prices of the train tickets and went to the ATM outside the station. After finding out that I would be charged a service fee of 150 THB, I decided that it would make more sense to go downtown and exchange money instead.
The tuktuk ride cost me 40 THB; I didn’t have any small change and I had to exchange some with a shop-owner. The kind lady told me that a more reasonable price would be 30 THB and I would get a fair price on my way back. After changing some money and lunch, I made my way back to the train station and got my train tickets.
State Railways of Thailand has a central reservation system which means that one can buy tickets for any trains within the next 60 days from any stations. I bought the tickets which would bring me from the Lao border at Nong Khai all the way to the Malaysian border at Padang Besar.
[Details of the day’s train]
SRT Train 70
Dep: Nong Khai 6.20pm
Arr: Bangkok 6:25am
Distance traveled: 624km
Time taken: 12h05m
Cost: 538 THB (2nd Class fan sleeper lower berth)
The map shows the approximate route.
It was only early afternoon when I finished all the necessary stuff and I had hours to kill. I could have gone to Sala Kaew Koo, sister park to Buddha Park in Vientiane but the rain killed the mood. Remember the book that I bought in Hanoi? I lost it and I don’t know where I did.
Somehow the time didn’t pass as slow as I had imagined and it was time to board the train.
My berth was on the front end of the compartment and it was kinda irritating hearing the doors slamming at times. If the door wasn’t closed properly, I could have a whiff of the wonderful fragrance emitting from the toilets.:(
Shortly after leaving the station, the train attendant started making the beds. There was something hard protruding from one of the cushions and the padding was too thin for me not to feel it. Somehow I managed to get the attendant to give me another cushion; the problem wasn’t solved completely though. I would lie in early, in anticipation of an early arrival to Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.