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Bangkok - Nong Khai - Vientiane - Luang Prabang, and back to Bangkok on a back packing trip: 23 - 31 July 2006
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I understood when I told my relatives in Yangon and Mandalay about my recent back packing trip to Laos the responses were just no comments or something that is equivalent to "don't do it again if not necessary" kind of suggestion. Only interests came from few of my younger nephews and nieces. My feeling is that since our country is probably in the 20 weakest nations list of the world ordinary folks from the inner country don't normally think about wandering in someone else' country with a back pack. By basic instinct they might assume that in case of any problem in a remote corner - small or big, even though they are innocent, there may be no one to count for in a foreign country where they don't know the local language. They may have a doubt on "upper world" perception of Myanmar or Burmese people.

Being naturalised as a citizen of a good looking powerful country for more than 35 years I now have a world view different from my family members in my native country. At the age of 75 I am still moving not because I have a deep pocket but because I believe this is my right and it is the way I want to be in.

Preparing the bed in the Bangkok - Nong Khai sleeper train
I left Bangkok in a night sleeper train. A week ago I bought the ticket at a Bangkok train station for a lower sleeping berth in a second class air-conditioned car. The train departed Hua Lampong central station in the late evening. A train attendant came and changed the seats into sleeping berths position and made the bed.

Nong Khai train station
In the train I met many other western backpackers, most of them were young, as well as ordinary travellers. Some talked about how to save or even earn extra money by teaching English in Thailand and staying in an cheap apartment. They claimed they had good money within 4 months to continue to another country and then they would eventually come back to Thailand for another period of travel and work. Well, I wished I was born as native English speakers. After a cheap dinner and a drink in the dinning car, I came back to my car and went into the berth and tried to have a sleep. The train was much better than those in Burma.

In the morning the train was running in the middle of large spreads of green paddy field occasionally interrupted by small towns and villages. At 8:30 a.m. the train pulled into Nong Khai station - the end of the north-eastern rail road.

I took out my small note book where I wrote down things to do and where to go from my research on the Internet. I took a tuk tuk taxi and came to the bus station in town where I would look for a bus to Vientiane.

Nong Khai bus station
Nong Khai bus station from where some buses run to Vientiane and back via the border bridge over the Mekong river. The bus stopped at check in/out station for immigration procedure. On the Lao side of the bridge the bus stopped again for paperworks. Here if you don't already have a Lao visa you need to apply for a visa on arrival. I am not sure if the bus will wait for you. In my case there was no one taking visa on arrival.

In Vientiane the bus stopped at the station next to morning market. After checking the bus time table and ticket price to Luang Prabang, my nexxt destination, I walked to Fa Nam road on the Mekong river bank where cheap tourist guesthouses are. I headed to Joe Guesthouse which I emailed for a room few days ago. It was a nice accommodation with basic facilities and friendly reception. After a shower and a rest I walked down the street to see the scenes along the river. That was my first trip to Laos so I did not want to waste any minute.

Food stalls along the Mekong river bank - Vientiane
Food vendors along the Mekong river bank. There were fruits, local snacks, juices, rice and sticky rice. You could have full dinner also. Some shops had tables and chairs for clients, others provided plastic ground sheet to sit on. During my two nights stay in Vientiane I walked to visit temples or Vat (Wat in Thai), markets, bus stations, Internet cafes, etc. on foot and by taxi. The river bank road and the area around was where you meet foreign tourists and expats community. To see the real Lao community you have got to go further down the roads, small streets and dirt tracks.

Single bed room in Joe guesthouse
A 210 Baht a night single fan room with shared bathroom. It was ok for the price. These rooms are on the second floor. The guesthouse could arrange bus tickets from Vientiane and Nong Khai, as well as train tickets from Nong Khai to Bangkok. In the morning I had a choice of coffee or tea.

Joe Guesthouse on Fa Nam road
Joe Guesthouse on Fa Nam road on the Mekong river bank. The pink colour building is it.

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