Legless Laos Trip

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New book Legless in Thailand

Legless in Vientiane, Laos

My first trip to Laos by John McMiken

The legless fool - SoloLegless internet in VientianeThe legless fool - Solo

British expat amputee in S. E. Asia

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'On the road again'

 

'My first trip to Laos'

Background to the trip - To give you the reason why I had to travel to Laos for the first time, I have to go back in time to about two months ago first. Two months ago I had just received a new passport from the British embassy in Bangkok and I had to travel to Penang to get a new visa issued for Thailand. I have been to Penang many times before and I always stay at the Blue Diamond hotel in Georgetown, I know all of the staff there and we are all friends now and it is quite pleasant. I have also met many of the guests that stay in the same hotel before too, because most are like me and just go to Penang to renew their Thai visa. It was on my last trip there in January 2008, that I was talking with a German guest that I know and he was very upset he told me that he had just received his passport back from the Thai embassy and he showed it to me, they had given him a visa but they had stamped his passport on the following page with a full-page red stamp that stated 'No more Thai visas from Penang are to be issued in this passport' He then went on to tell me that the Thai immigration had changed the rules 'again' and now if you go to the same Thai embassy in any other nearby country for visas two times running then anyone will get this same stamp in their passport too.

So then I had to start thinking about what I should do the next time that I needed a new Thai visa, because I didn't want one of these stamps in my passport and that is when I came up with the idea of going to Laos for my next Thai visa. Although I had never been to Laos before it seemed to be the next most convenient place to go, so I booked a train to Nong Khai which is the nearest Thai town to the Laos border, I also did a little research on the internet about Laos and here we are!

The start of the trip - The first day of the trip, we had to leave the accommodation at about lunchtime, because although we had booked the sleeper train from Bangkok to Nong Khai for 20: 45 in the evening, from where we live, the journey to Bangkok alone can take up to 5 hours or more depending on the traffic. On our eventual arrival at Hualumpong railway station in Bangkok, we still had a couple of hours to kill, so we went for a meal at a nearby cafe and I also had a few beers to help me to sleep on the train. Twenty minutes before the train was due to leave we returned to the station, boarded the train, found our seats and settled down for the long journey ahead. I was a little apprehensive about what lay ahead, because I had read on the internet about some bad experiences that some people had had before at the Laos immigration 'visa on entry' post, they had complained about not having US dollars and being overcharged for using Thai baht for the visa instead of dollars, I had mentioned about this to my Thai friend (Loy) travelling with me, but she said that she would sort it out for us.

Loy started talking to another Thai girl who was sitting on the other side of the train and later told me that the girl that she had been talking to and her boyfriend had done this trip before and knew how to arrange everything with some people who had an office near Nong Khai railway station and she said that she would help us and show us what to do. So I relaxed a little, opened a new bottle of beer, I had brought a few bottles along with me for the trip. Then I started thinking about what Vientiane would be like when we get there and if the accommodation, either guest house or hotel, would be very expensive. This was definitely a first for me, I had never even thought about visiting Laos before these new Thai visa problems crept up. After a little while one of the train staff came along and set up the bunks and everyone went to bed, I sat up for a little while longer and had a few more beers and just sat mulling over in my head what I thought Laos would be like when we got there and then eventually I drifted off to sleep too.

Nong Khai, the border and Laos - The next morning I woke up at about 08:00 which seemed like a good time to me, because the train was scheduled to arrive in Nong Khai at 09:00. I got myself a cup of tea from the train staff, went to the toilet and whilst I was in there I had my first cigarette of the day, 'no smoking on the train'. When I returned to my bunk they had already converted it back into seating, so I just sat down and started talking to Loy about what we would do in Vientiane when we got there. The first thing that we had to do was to find a cheap guest house somewhere and then find out the location of the Thai embassy there to arrange for the visa the next morning. The train was late it must have lost time somewhere during the night because we only arrived at Nong Khai station at about 11:00. As we disembarked from the train, we followed the couple that had said that they would help. There were many motorcycle trishaws waiting at the station, so I just let the other couple do the price negotiations and then we travelled in the same trishaw with them. We were taken to an office about 500 metres away and there were many people there arranging for their trip into Laos. They charged 2,000 baht per person for foreigners for their services which included, 35 US dollars for the Laos visa-on-arrival and transport from the Laos side of the friendship bridge into Vientiane by mini-bus. I had no idea about the actual prices involved in all of this but 2,000 baht inclusive seemed reasonable and not too much over-the-top, so I paid them, gave them my passport and three photos which they requested and just sat down and waited. Loy did not have to do anything special, because for a Thai person to enter Laos they only charged 300 baht at the border. A few cigarettes later, they brought my passport to me, gave me a large A4 envelope with some documents in it and also gave me 35 US dollars. Checking through the documents in the envelope, there were photocopies of my passport which I had to sign and they had completed the Thai visa application form and attached two of my photos to it and that required my signature also. The last document in there was the Laos arrival and departure document which they had also filled in for me and again just required a signature, so everything seemed to be quite well organised.

When we were all finished there we got back in the trishaw that had been waiting for us, then we went to the Thai border post at the friendship bridge, which was just about five hundred metres away. We paid the motorcycle trishaw 30 baht per person which included the ride from the train station and then proceeded through the Thai exit immigration post. Once through Thai immigration, I was then informed that we now had to purchase bus tickets for the trip across the bridge and for this they charged 15 baht per person. The bus arrived about fifteen minutes later and we crossed the bridge over the Mekhong river and arrived at the Laos immigration post on the other side of the bridge. I had a quick look around and saw the sign for visa-on-arrival and joined the quite long queue there, when it was my turn at the window I gave the Laos official my passport, he checked through it and then gave me a visa application form to fill in, more paperwork! I completed the form quite quickly, joined the queue again and gave the official my passport again and the completed form, he then requested the $35 fee, which I gave him, he gave me a receipt and told me to just sit down and wait now. About ten minutes later I was called to the window and given my passport which now contained the Laos visa, I then had to proceed to the actual Laos entry immigration post just about ten metres away, handed them my passport and the Laos entry/exit document and two minutes later I was handed my stamped passport back and allowed to enter Laos.

Vientiane, Guest house, Thai Embassy, Food and Beer - There was a driver waiting for us after the immigration post and we were escorted to a nearby parked mini-bus, many people piled into this mini-bus and it was completely full, we then set off for Vientiane, I still did not know exactly where we were going to stay, but another couple in the bus told the driver exactly where they wanted to go and the driver complied and drove us there. We arrived at a guest house on the outskirts of Vientiane about thirty minutes later, which was the guest house that the couple had directed the driver to and the mini-bus parked there. I was glad to get out and stretch my leg(s) and I needed a cigarette anyway, Loy started talking to the couple that had directed the bus here and then she went with them to the check-in desk and then quickly returned to me and told me that the guest house still had rooms available and the cost was 180 baht per night for a fan room and 350 baht per night for a room with Air-con and TV and that the guest house would accept payment in Thai baht. I told her that the fan room was fine with me and she then went and booked us in for two nights. So now we have a room, now onto the next priority, I asked Loy to ask how far it was to the Thai embassy from this guest house and how much it would cost to go there the next morning, so she went over to the couple that had stayed here before and returned to me a just short while later and told me that the Thai embassy was just walking distance away from here and after we had put our bags in the room she would go with the other Thai girl and walk to the embassy to check it out.

Loy left with the other girl about ten minutes later, so I just grabbed the last beer I had left in my bag and went to sit outside in the grounds of this guest house. On the way out I passed the reception counter and enquired in Thai if they had any beer there and how much it was, the girl there replied in Thai that they had many beers and which did I want, I said that I was interested in trying some local Laos beer and she said that they had litre bottles of 'Beer Lao' at 40 Thai baht per bottle, I thanked her for this information and then hobbled off to sit at one of the outside tables, I took off my leg and opened my last bottle of 'Archa Beer' that I had brought with me. Just sitting there alone quietly and sipping at my beer, I just watched people coming and going and many smiled and nodded to me, which I reciprocated and it suddenly came home to me, that I am now in a new country and it seems so quiet and peaceful here. Listening to some of the locals talking, I realised that I understood them easily, because the language is virtually the same as Thai, there was only the odd word here and there that I didn't understand, so I am in Laos now and I feel quite at home and relaxed here!

About one hour later, Loy returned with her new friend and they came to sit with me. She told me that the embassy was only about four hundred metres away down the main road at the end of the passage at the side of the guest house, she also said that she had been for a walk around and she had found a restaurant not too far away that seemed quite good too. Next priority! I told her about the price of the beer in the guest house and that I thought that it was a little expensive because I had read on the internet that the local beer was about the same price that we pay for beer in thailand about 30 baht. It was starting to get dark now and my beer was finished, so I asked Loy if we could go and find a shop that had cheap beer close by, I also said that we should try and get some local currency to use, so she went to the reception and changed 100 Thai baht for 28,000 Laos Kip, I realised then that I really had to find a way to do the local currency calculations quickly in my head, because there is such a vast difference between the two currencies. Loy said that if I could walk a little bit, then she would show me where the Thai embassy is and then we could carry on to the restaurant and get something to eat and drink. So we walked down the passage at the side of the guest house and about 150 metres later we came to the main road that I now know is called 'Rue 23 Singha' this is the road that the Thai embassy is on and Loy pointed it out in the distance, then we turned in the opposite direction and started walking towards the restaurant that she had found. My amputated leg was started to hurt quite badly now and I spotted a bench at the side of the road and told Loy that I had to sit down for a while. When I took my prosthesis off I found that the skin on the stump of my left leg was chafed and from past experience I knew that it would get worse before it would get better again, it is caused from the heat from my leg inside the polystyrene sleeve inside the prosthesis and the nylon/woolen sock over my stump gets wet and starts to rub the skin away. I dried my leg off as best that I could and using a handkerchief I put a little padding around the chafed area, I then put my leg on again and hobbled to the restaurant at the next road junction. My leg was hurting a lot again by the time that we reached the restaurant and I quickly sat down at one of the open-air tables there and pulled my leg off and became legless again.

The owner of the restaurant came over and gave each of us a small menu, the one that she gave me was in English and had prices in Laos kip, I quickly scanned over the menu until I found Beer Lao and the price was 8,000 kip per litre bottle, a quick calculation in my head told me that this was about the equivalent of 32 Thai baht, so I ordered my first beer in Laos. When the beer arrived, I sampled it and ran it over my tongue and it had a new taste for me, it was not a bad taste it was very pleasant and easy to drink, so I was quite happy with my first taste of Lao beer and with the pain in my leg, I really needed it. The food that they had on the menu wass exactly the same type of food that you can get anywhere in Thailand, the only difference being that the prices in Laos compared to Thailand, were between 50% and 100% more expensive than the exact same food in Thailand. I just ordered a chicken fried rice and that was exactly the same price as my beer 8,000 kip/ 32 baht whereas in Thailand it would have only cost 20 or 25 baht normally. The food was good though and went down well followed by the Beer Lao and eventually the pain in my leg eased gradually or was being anaesthetised by the Beer Lao Lots more beer When it was time to pay the bill in the restaurant, we did not have enough in Laos kip, but the owner was quite happy accepting Thai baht and used the calculation of 1,000 kip to 20 baht and this is the formula that I then adopted to make a quick estimation of prices in Laos. This calculation is not exact and quite obviously the restaurant was making a small profit using Thai currency, but it is a useful calculation to know in Laos. The beer being quite cheap in the restaurant, I took a carry-out of three beers with me to drink back at the guest house and the only stipulation that the restaurant made about this, was that I should return the empty bottles to them the following day. Back at the guest house on 'Rue Nongbone', I sat outside in the yard, opened a beer and checked the application for my Thai visa for the following day, I had to change some things, because the visa assistance office near Nong Khai station had made a couple of wrong entries. When I had finished with the visa application form, I gave it and my passport to Loy and she said that she would take them to the Thai embassy the next morning for me and she went to the room to sleep. I just sat outside drinking beer for a while and assessing the whole day, then I too got tired and retired to my room.

So all in all, my first day in Laos had gone quite well, we had found somewhere cheap to stay, the Thai embassy was very conveniently located close by and I had found some cheap and pleasant beer, the only downside was that my amputated leg was playing up again, but that is only physical pain, nothing much really to worry about. Getting legless again

The second day - The next morning I awoke at about 11:00 am, I carried out my usual morning ablutions, fitted my leg with a little difficulty because of the pain from the chafed skin and then slowly wandered outside. I went to the reception and asked if they had any tea available and they replied that they didn't have any tea, but they did have hot water available, so I made a mental note to bring some tea bags with me the next time that I come here. I bought a small carton of drinking yogurt from them and then hobbled over to my now usual seating position in the yard, sat down and took my leg off, lit a cigarette and started thinking about what I should do today. I was still sitting there one hour later when Loy returned with her new friends, back from the embassy. I asked if everything had gone okay and she replied affirmatively and added that my passport should be ready for collection at 13:00 the following day. I was feeling a little hungry, so I asked if anyone else was feeling hungry and then we all went to the restaurant that we had eaten at the day before, which I now knew was on the corner of the junction at 'Rue 23 Singha' and 'Rue Nongbone'.

 

After eating a filling bowl of rice soup with squid and having drunk a few cups of strong tea, I had already decided that the next priority for me that day was access to the internet, so I asked Loy if she could enquire with the people around there where the nearest internet cafe was located. After many enquiries it became quite obvious that nobody in the restaurant knew, so I suggested to Loy that we just go outside and get a motorcycle trishaw, because surely they would know. So this is what we did and after a lot of argument with the driver over the price, the trishaw eventually took us to an internet cafe, which turned out to be on the next road and was only about 800 metres away. We went into the internet cafe, I enquired about the price and was told that it was 4,000 kip per hour, which with my quick calculations now, I equated this to 15 or 16 baht per hour, which was reasonable. I was shown to a computer, the station was activated and I logged on to my email, I had not had access to the internet for two days now, so I was not surprised to see that I had 630 messages in my inbox. Loy asked me if I was going to be a long time, so I replied that I needed about two or three hours, because I needed to do my search engine optimisation (SEO) routines for my websites and take care of my email too. Loy replied that she was feeling a little tired and wanted to return to the guest house to sleep for a while, so I told her that I would take a slow walk back to the guest house later when I was finished, now that I knew where the internet cafe was, I could find my own way back easily. So Loy left, I took off my leg and started with my internet routines. Legless at computer

 

Almost three hours later I had just about cleared most of what I had to do on the internet, so I logged out and shut down the browsers. I went to the controller and gave him a 20,000 kip note, he gave me 8,000 kip change and I started slowly walking back to the guest house. I was about halfway back to the guest house when my leg started hurting really badly and from past experience I knew that the skin had rubbed off again and it was probably bleeding, so I managed to find a low wall at the side of the road that I could sit down on, I pulled off my false leg and cleaned my leg up with handkerchiefs that I carry in my jacket just for this purpose, I put a small plaster on the wound and padded it with another handkerchief. I had just about finished re-fitting my false leg, when Loy came around the corner and she gave me a hand back to the guest house. I knew that I still had one beer left from the night before, so I retrieved it quickly from my room, hobbled over to my usual seat in the yard, took my leg off and started taking some of the local medicine for my leg (Beer Lao) More beer for legless

When I had finished my last beer it was already getting dark, so I suggested going to the restaurant for some food, what I really needed was more beer! So Loy said that she would go and ask her friends if they wanted to go with us, she returned about five minutes later with the other couple and we set off for the restaurant. My leg was really hurting again now, but with more beer for incentive, I just gritted my teeth and walked as quickly as I could. When we arrived at the restaurant, I just quckly sat down and took my leg off, when the owner came over, I gave her the empty beer bottles from yesterday, ordered a beer for myself and then asked the others if they wanted to order any food yet. Loy then told me that she and her friends had agreed to go and eat at one of the small food stalls near a market across the main road and then a further 600 metres walk, she asked me if I wanted to go too, so I just lifted up my leg and said that my leg was much too painful for me to go that far, I then went on to say that I was not very hungry just yet, so it would be good if she could just bring a snack back for me to eat later when they returned from their meal. This she agreed to do and the three of them set off for the market. To be quite honest, I was glad just to see them go, I wasn't really in the mood for company and the further Loy stays away from me, the better for me, and I can start to relax a little. As most of you who are reading this story will have come here from the link on my blog, then you should understand what I am talking about here.

They all returned to the restaurant about one and a half hours later and Loy had brought me a little barbecued pork and some sticky rice, which I thanked her for. Everyone was now tired having eaten and walked a long way and they wanted to go back to the guest house, so I ordered three bottles of beer for a carry-out, paid the bill and then we set off back to the guest house. At the guest house all of the others being tired, quickly went to bed and I was left alone at my favourite seat in the yard to take my leg off, sit alone, eat the snack that Loy had brought for me and drink my beer Legless alone againBeing alone again gave me time to think about picking up my passport and leaving Laos the next day, I thought that I should really clear my email before I leave and I decided to go back to the internet cafe the following day before I go to the Thai embassy to get my passport. A few beers later, being tired myself, I just staggered back to my room, lay down on the bed and slipped immediately into my usual coma for the night.

The last day and the trip home - When I woke up the next day again I carried out my usual ablutions, got dressed, put my leg on, which was still a little bit painful but not as bad as the day before and went out into the yard. Loy and her new friends were sitting out there, so I joined them, sat down, gave Loy the bag of empty beer bottles to take back to the restaurant and then I said that I was going to the internet cafe. Loy looked at the time and it was 11:00 and then she said to me not to be too long on the internet because we had to go to the Thai embassy at 13:00 to pick up the passport. I told her that I only needed about two hours and that the embassy opens at 13:00 but we can go there anytime afterwards, it wasn't like a fixed appointment and then I wondered off towards the internet cafe. I spent just over one hour on the internet clearing my email deleting all of the unwanted spam that I get a lot of and answering the email scammers, who think that they have an easy target with me. Legless scam player I paid 5,000 kip for my time on the internet and then set off walking back towards the guest house.

Walking slowly back to the guest house my leg was hurting again so I thought that I would stop somewhere for a rest this time and I also wanted a cup of tea because I had nothing to eat or drink yet today, so I started looking for a cafe on the way back. Again when I was just about halfway back to the guest house, my leg started to hurt a lot, I was still looking for a cafe and I spotted some tables outside a shop that had condiments and chopsticks on them, so I quickly headed there, sat down on the first available seat and quickly pulled my leg off. The plaster that I had put on my leg the day before had now come off and the broken skin had started to bleed again so I started to clean it up. A girl carrying a small child then came to me and asked me what I wanted, so I ordered a cup of tea, she then told me that they didn't sell tea, she stood there for a while watching me clean up my leg and then she put the small child down on the seat next to me and quickly went inside. I was thinking then that just as soon as my leg was cleaned up and my prosthesis was re-fitted again, then I would leave this cafe and start to head back to the guest house again as it was now almost 13:00. I had just about finished with my leg and I was applying a new plaster to it, when the girl appeared again smiling and she held out a Lipton's tea bag and asked me if it would be okay for me. Apparently, she had gone to her living accommodation found this tea bag and then brought it back for me. I gave her a big smile and said that it would be wonderful and thanked her for it. A few miutes later she brought me a hot cup of tea and then went inside to take care of a couple of customers that had just arrived. The small child kept coming over to me, smiling at me and seemed fascinated with my prosthesis, probably because she had never seen one before and also because I was the only foreigner(Caucasian) around there. I sat there sipping my tea and smoking cigarettes for a while, then I looked at my watch and it was now 13:20, so I thought that I had better make a move now or Loy would start panicking in typical Thai fashion. I called the girl over and asked her how much I owed her and she just smiled again and said that I owe her nothing and that the tea was free for me, this I could not accept, she had gone out of her way to make the tea for me, so I took out a 5,000 Kip note and tried to force it on her, but she just kept on refusing and moving far away, so I gave up after a while. I then fitted my prosthesis and the small child came to watch me again, I smiled at her, took out the 5,000 Kip note and gave it to her and told her to take it to her mother. This she did and I started to walk away, her mother smiled at me and held up the bank note, so I just waved to her turned around and set off for the guest house again.

On the way back to the guest house I met Loy walking in the opposite direction and just as I had thought, she was panicking about the time, it was only 13:30 and the embassy was open for another three hours, but then again that is using logic, a commodity that she is lacking. We picked up the bags from the guest house handed in the key and then went to the Thai embassy, I retrieved my passport now with visa and then I had to start thinking about how we get to the border and what time the train back to Bangkok was, because this was information that I did not have at that time. Outside the embassy Loy started talking to some of the trishaw drivers and I was watching another foreigner negotiating the price with a trishaw driver about taking him to the Friendship bridge (the border) and the driver would not budge from his asking price of 300 Thai baht, I was interested in this because I thought that 300 baht was very expensive and my own money now was getting very low. Loy then grabbed my arm and pushed me into another trishaw, I asked her how much it was going to cost us and she replied that it was 60 baht, so I thought that it was a very good price to go to the border for two people. I was wrong again, it is my fault for expecting other people to be logical like me, we were not going to the border, we were going to a market somewhere. I just wanted to get back to Thailand as quickly as possible and try to get a train that evening especially as we were now getting very short of money, but no! Loy had decided that she wanted to look at the market and see what she could buy to take back with us.

Whilst Loy was going around the market, I just sat on a bench near the entrance smoking and trying to guess or work out how much it was going to cost us to get to the border from there. Loy returned from her wanderings about one hour later and she had purchased a large bag of dried squid, just what I needed!! We then went out of the market and this is where the next bit of fun began, we approached some motorcycle trishaws and started negotiating the price to the Friendship bridge at the border, just as with the guy outside the embassy everyone wanted 300 baht per person, this I totally refused and we spent the next hour walking up and down the road trying to find a trishaw that was more reasonable in price. Eventually one trishaw agreed to take us both for 100 baht, so we quickly jumped in it and he set off, I was interested in everything around now, because we were in a part of Vientiane that I had not seen before, then after about two kilometres the trishaw stopped and said that he was just going across the road to talk to a friend. When he returned about five minutes later he told us that he would not take us to the border for 100 baht and he would take us back to the market. I was getting quite upset at this point, the impression that I had got from most of the Laos people that I had met was quite good up until now, but these motorcycle trishaw drivers are just opportunists and it was just like being back in Thailand again. I told Loy just to tell him to stop and we will get out, this she did, but he would not stop, he had to stop at some traffic lights though and we both just quickly got out of the trishaw there.

I was still looking for other trishaws to negotiate with when I saw that we were near a food market and a stall selling filled, French, bread rolls caught my eye, I was now getting quite hungry so I asked Loy to go to the stall and ask how much the filled rolls were. At two or three thousand kip each, they were very reasonably priced, so we bought some to take with us for the trip back. Whilst we were there, I asked Loy to ask the lady selling the rolls just what the normal price to the border is and were we can find a reasonable motorcycle trishaw driver, the lady selling the rolls pointed to a bus stop just twenty metres further inside the market area and told us that bus number 14 goes straight to the bridge. So we quickly joined the queue at the bus stop and we were on a bus just twenty minutes later. On the bus you pay for the journey on exit, so when we arrived at the border I asked the driver how much for the fare and he replied 8,000 kip for the two of us, that is just the same cost as one bottle of Beer Lao, just 32 baht, so the motorcycle trishaw drivers are real con men/rip-off merchants in Laos, the only bad thing that I had seen in the country since I had been there.

We then exited from Laos at the border, bought the 15 baht bus tickets for the bus across the bridge, arrived on the Thai side of the bridge, filled in a Thai entry / exit form and I got the 2 month's stamp in my passport again. We then got a Thai motorcycle trishaw to Nong Khai railway station for 50 baht and proceeded to try and get a train for that evening to Bangkok. We just found out that we had arrived there just two hours before the train was due to leave, they only had seven seats available and they were all upper bunks, so we bought two tickets and I thought that I would find somewhere else to sleep that evening on the train if I could, because being legless I cannot climb up to and down from an upper bunk. We have the tickets, now the next priority I needed a beer, looking around I spotted a general shop on the opposite side of the road to the railway station and quickly headed for it. They didn't have any Archa Beer, but they had Beer Chang which is virtually the same, so I grabbed one, opened it quickly and started to drink it before I had even asked what the price was. The beer turned out to be 40 baht per litre bottle and being the only place around I didn't argue, 'Beggars can't be choosers', I asked them for three more bottles to take with me on the train and they had to send out to get some extra supplies for me. The cost of the same beer on the train is 100 baht per bottle, so it is a very good saving, we then spotted a restaurant just inside the railway station and they were advertising at 20 baht per plate for their food, so we decided to go there just before the train left and take a food carry-out with us, because again this is much cheaper than any food sold on the train.

When we got on the train, we found our seats, stowed the bags and then I went outside for a cigarette before we got underway. On the platform I met an Australian guy having a smoke too and we started talking, he told me that he had done this trip many times before and that it was quite easy and convenient once you have got the hang of it. When I returned to the train Loy was talking to two Thai girls who had the two lower bunks below us and she asked them if one of them would swap with me, but they didn't agree. So I just sat back opened my food and a beer, took off my leg and started to relax a little. I have had this problem of bunks on one of my trips to Penang before, so I thought that I would do the same today that I did before. At the end of each carriage there is a washing area and toilets and just to off to one side there is a place where they stow the used bedsheets and pillow cases, so I took a look at this, moved them around a little, sat on them and tested them for comfort and when satisfied, I went back to my seat and picked up my beer, then returned to the bedsheet pile sat down and started to relax. This is now my seat / bed for tonight and being close to the toilets, it is easy for me to go for a cigarette in the toilet when I want one, so I settled down and leaned back into the old bedsheets, drank my beer and started thinking about this trip to Vientiane and the lessons that I had learned from it.

One of the train staff came by went, into the carriage and started arranging the bunks to allow people to go to sleep, after he had finished most of the people went to bed and as far as I was concerned, I was already on my bed for the night! Legless and beerI had just returned from having a cigarette and I was just opening my second beer when Loy came through the door from the carriage, she then informed that one of the girls had relented and that I now had a lower bunk in the carriage, this didn't really excite me because I was now quite happy and comfortable where I was, but I pretended to be pleased, I put my leg on again and followed her into the carriage, thanked the girl concerned for the bunk, sat down on my new bunk and started to try and get comfortable again. After a few more beers, I eventally started to get tired, went to the toilet for a last cigarette, came back to my bunk, drank the last of my beer and slipped into my usual coma for the night. I don't remember the exact time that I woke up the next morning, but looking out of the window, I saw Ayutthaya railway station, so I knew that we had just a little over one hour until we reached Bangkok. It was only then that I started to think, 'why are we going to Bangkok?' we have to come back through Ayutthaya again on the train going home, I mentioned this to Loy and we both agreed to get off the train at one of the other stations just North of Bangkok, so we got off the train at Don Muang railway station and booked the next train going North to Takhli.

The rest of the journey home only took about four hours and was not very eventful, so I think that I shall close this story about Legless first trip to Laos here. However, below are the lessons that I learned on this trip, there are also a couple of maps that I have sketched that may be useful and I have given some general information, advice, hints and tips about Laos for anyone who is interested in doing this journey for the first time themselves.

I learned a lot on this first trip to Vientiane, Laos.

Advice for the trip to Vientiane:

Take 35 US dollars per person with you for Laos visa-on-arrival

Take plenty of small denominations of Thai baht with you 20s, 50s, 100s

Only change into Laos kip just a little more than you would need for your stay. For example for my three day stay in Laos 3,000 baht or 840,000 Laos kip was ample.

Take money from Thailand with you for the journey, use ATM machines in Thailand.

As you exit Thailand, pick up an entry / exit form (TM) ready for re-entry on your return.

Buy the bus tickets to cross the bridge 15 Thai baht per person.

After crossing the Friendship bridge and going through Laos immigration, keep to the right and look for the bus stop. Take the No. 14 bus into Vientiane 4,000 Laos kip or 16 Thai baht per person.

On arrival at Vientiane bus station/market then you have to know where you are going to and take a motorcycle trishaw, but pay no more than the equivalent of 20 or 30 baht per person to anywhere in the city.

Viengsavanh Guest house - This is the guest house that I stayed at in Vientiane and it is within easy walking distance to the Thai Embassy. The address is: Nongbone Road, Ban Nongbone, Saysetha District, Vientiane.

Fan rooms are 180 Thai baht per night, A/C rooms are 250 Thai baht per night or 350 Thai baht with TV. Right click on the Viengsavanh image below to save it on your computer and print it out later.

If you are going for a Thai visa during the week plan for a two night stay in Laos and book your return train from Nong Khai accordingly in advance to guarantee your seat.

Take three photos per person with you, 1 photo for Laos visa-on-arrival and 2 photos for your Thai visa.

Viengsavanh Guest house, Ban Nongbone, Saysetha, Vientiane, Laos

'Viengsavanh Guest House business card'

Postscript - I hope that the information, advice, tips and hints on this page are useful for you, below is a quick list of the suggested steps to take to make a successful and economical Thai visa trip to Vientiane.

1. Book your return sleeper train tickets to Nong Khai

2. Make sure that you have the money, different currencies, photos, passport, etc. as above

3. Buy some beer and food for the journey

4. Board the train and head for Nong Khai

5. On arrival at Nong Khai, take a motorcycle trishaw from the station to the Friendship bridge.

6. After going through Thai immigration exit procedures, take the bus across the bridge.

7. On arrival at the Laos side of the bridge go to Visa-on-Arrival window and collect your visa application and Laos entry / exit form.

8. Fill out the forms and hand the completed visa application and passport along with $35 to person at the Visa-on-Arrival window.

9. Wait until you are called to the right hand window to receive your passport complete with Laos visa.

10. Write your visa number on the Laos entry / exit form and procede to Laos immigration.

11. Take the No. 14 bus to Vientiane and on arrival take a motor trishaw to your accommodation.

12. Next morning go to the Thai Embassy on Rue 23 Singha and make your visa application.

13. Collect your passport with Thai visa the following afternoon after 13:00 hrs.

14. Go to the market and take the No. 14 bus to the Friendship bridge.

15. Exit Laos immigration, take the bus across the bridge, go to Thai immigration get your passport stamped and then take a trishaw back to Nong Khai railway station and wait for your return train. Don't forget to buy some beer at the shop opposite to take with you! Legless and beer

A little bit of extra advice: On the Laos side of the Friendship bridge there are duty free shops available, but personally I found that their prices for cigarettes, wine and spirits were more expensive than you can find in Vientiane itself.

 

Cheers for now

John McMiken

Legless fool in ThailandThe legless fool - Solo

Ban Nongbone, Saysetha, Vientiane Map (below)

Map of Saysetha, Vientiane - Viengsavanh guest house, Thai Embassy and Naxay Internet shop

Nong Khai station and border Map (below)

Nong Khai railway station and border area

Another trip: Catfish restaurant Saladan, Koh Lanta New true legless trip in Asia story - A lost love

 

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P.S. "I don't remember reading the small print when I signed on for this life, in fact, I don't remember signing on at all, I was probably legless then too! So seeing as I cannot resign, can we renegotiate the contract please?"

 

My first published book - Legless in Thailand

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