We decided to go from Bangkok to Vientiane using the night train which would leave at 8pm, arriving in Nong Khai at 7.30am. You can’t actually buy a direct ticket from
Bangers to Vientiane, so you’ll need to go through Nong Khai. Nong Khai is the border town on the Thai side.
We took the local bus No. 53 from Samsen St to the train station and bought our tickets the day before.
The train station was old but still grand, as all interstate train stations are, and we were approached twice by helpful women with official lanyards around their necks eager to help us. Trust these women as they are actually employed to help tourists and will direct you to the correct counter!
We bought two sleeper tickets, one upper berth being a bit narrower and cheaper at 688 baht, and one lower berth wider and more spacious at 758 baht.
We then took Bus No. 29 to Siam Square which was very handy.
The next day, we killed eight hours during the day, and then nearly missed the train as we forgot to account for crazy Bangkok peak hour traffic (making the train involved jumping off the local bus after 20 minutes of not moving at all, then another 10 minutes flagging a mototaxi down, another 10 minutes of a friendly local woman helping us translate our location to the mototaxi guys, then 10 minutes of flying through Bangkok traffic at speeds of up to 70kms)!
Hopped onto the train and we were pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. Despite a rouge cockroach creeping around, it was pretty clean, smelled clinical (in a nice way), and was very comfortable. We had seats facing each other and during the day there would be four seats assigned, but at night it was only two.
We had a quick dinner of a bag of chips(!) then an hour or so later, the ticket guy came around to make the beds. Definitely not his first barbeque! He swiftly unlocked the ceiling, pulled down the top bed, prodded, pulled and slid the seats into another bed, and covered both up in clean sheets. This was our bed for the night!
We ended up chatting to a Thai man who eluded that he had been to jail for poaching rhino horns in South Africa, had a gun held to his head due to dodgy business deals, and was a chef of all things, and as he bid us goodnight he told us to wake him up if we needed any help during the night. What a nice guy!
As it was still a bit early, we decided to watch an episode of Bob’s Burgers on the tablet. Hilarious by the way! We both fit in the bottom berth so we ended up sleeping there during the night, not using the upper bed – if only they would let us buy one sleeper ticket!
It was a very comfortable sleep, and it was cozy and warm once you drew the curtain around the bed. So warm that I woke up during the night in a frenzy, sweating like crazy, and opened the curtain up a bit to allow in the cold air conditioning from the aisle.
Set an alarm to wake up at 6am, because we didn’t want to wake up groggy just as the train rocked up into Nong Khai, and we ate our breakfast of a 7-11 banana cake that we had bought the night before. Definitely bring something to eat for brekky. They sell breakfast on the train but the guy quoted us 160 baht! Our banana cakes cost 13 baht!
The train ended up at Nong Khai at 8.30am, pretty much on Thai schedule, and most of the tourists from the train went to the train counter to buy a train ticket to Vientiane, or rather, Thanaleng, the closest train station – 20kms away from the actual city centre, takes longer, more expensive yadda yadda – so not advisable.
We, along with a few others, took a tuk tuk to the border (less than a km away from the train station but we didn’t know until we had paid 30 baht each), and stamped out of Thailand. From there we all boarded a bus to go over the Mekong River on the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge (15 baht each, 2 minute journey) and we also switched from driving on the left to the right lane.
Once across, I had to wait a while and pay for my Laos visa ($30 USD for an Aussie) while Lionel walked right through as Swiss people get 15 days into the country without a visa. All up it took about an hour, filling in the form, waiting to submit, then waiting for the visa, but luckily this time around there were NO VISA SCAMS (unlike the border from Dien Bien Phu).
After a bit of a tense moment between Lionel and I, we couldn’t decide whether to take a tuk tuk or a bus into the centre, we took the local bus at 25 baht each (we didn’t have kip yet but it would’ve cost 5,000 kip).
The tuk tuk quoted us 50 baht each, would’ve taken us to the Morning Market (opposite the bus station, so the same place as where the cheap bus would go) and was waiting to completely fill up his tuk tuk with other people before leaving. Another tuk tuk offered to ‘go now, go now’ for 100 baht each.
As we knew the bus would get into the Central Bus Station in Vientiane (there’s a North Station 5kms from the city, and a South Station 9kms away), and we knew how to walk the 1km from the station to the city centre, we decided to do this and while it was damn hot, it was very satisfying to walk past the tuk tuks and navigate the streets that we kinda remembered from over two months ago!