Budsarakham Tour was our bus company of choice for our 10 hour trip to Nong Khai. Budsarakham Tour offers double-decker buses with plenty of leg room for us Asian people and an onboard restroom. The 10 hours of travel time, and the comfy seats was enough for us to sleep on. It was quite cold inside the bus. Good thing they provided blankets too! The bus company also provided snacks and bottled water which is a plus. Mind you though, there are some pesky mosquitoes in the bus.
We arrived at 7:30 AM the following day in Nong Khai. Luckily there was a public restroom in the bus terminal though you have to pay if you want to use it (3 Baht if you want to pee, 5 Baht if you want to poo, and 10 baht if you want to take a shower and do number 1 and 2). It wasn’t fancy at all but hey, it’s better than not taking a shower at all hahaha!
With everyone feeling fresh, we bought our bus tickets and boarded the bus that would take us to Vientiane. The bus will stop at the Thai border for passengers to get an exit stamp. It will then cross the Friendship Bridge between Thailand and Laos, and then will stop again at the border of Laos for the mandatory immigration formalities. Once your passport is stamped, you will have to buy an access card for you to be able to exit Laos Immigration. The access card is 5 Baht.
Travel time from Laos Immigration to Vientiane took almost 1 hour and since we do not have much time to explore Laos, we just chose to visit Wat Phra Kaew which was just a 15-minute walk away from the bus station. The entrance fee is 40 Baht (Yes, they accept Baht in Laos) if you want to enter the temple however if you just want to explore the temple grounds, it is free.
We could’ve visited one of the other temples in Laos but since our time was limited and we already felt hungry, we went back to the bus terminal where carinderias were present. The food was quite expensive though, 60 Baht for rice and strips of chicken, and by strips, I mean strands of chicken breasts =(.
The sun was at its highest and hottest when we finished lunch. Lucky for us, the owner of the carinderia knew a bit of English and helped us find a tuk-tuk big enough for the group to take us to Thanaleng train station. We stopped at a shopping mall in Vientiane to find some fridge magnets but to no avail. Actually, that was one of the main purpose why we went to Laos! Hahaha 😀
We arrived 2 hours before our 5PM departure. The train station was sort of in the middle of nowhere and since we were quite early, the place was still deserted apart from the staff of the station and the immigration office. Loads of picture taking soon started since we were the only ones there.
At 4:00PM the immigration office opened so we proceeded to do the exit formalities before other train passengers arrive. You have to pay an exit fee of 50 Baht which was quite sketchy since no receipts were given though there were signages about exit fee payment. Thanaleng train station is connected to Nong Khai train station and the journey only took 15 minutes. Once in Nong Khai train station, you have to go through immigration for the entry formalities so be sure to keep this in mind when making your itinerary.
Nong Khai train station is connected to Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok and the travel time was around 10 hours long. The seats weren’t too comfortable but can be reclined. The air-conditioning was on full blast the whole trip so it was really hard to get some shut-eye.
We arrived in Bangkok at around 5Am and from there booked a ride to Suvarnabhumi Airport. Since it was still early in the morning, we arrived at the airport in less than 30 minutes.
(Just to avoid confusion, we took a bus from Bangkok to Nong Khai, and then another bus to Vientiane. To get back to Bangkok, we took a train from Thanaleng Station in Vientiane to Nong Khai, and then another train to Bangkok)
This whole Indochina trip has been exhausting yet totally worthwhile. Our bond as a team became much stronger and we are now closer than ever. Remember, happiness is most powerful when shared!
If you plan to travel out of the country, below are some of our tips that might help:
Check the exchange rate before having your Peso converted to USD. Start checking the rates a few weeks before the trip so that you can take advantage of the high exchange rate just in case. Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy USD in banks rather than money changers. Have your PHP converted to USD whilst still in the Philippines as some money changers abroad don’t accept PHP.
Allocate a set amount of budget for each country. This way, you will avoid overspending/running out of funds.
Shoes that are easy to wear and remove are best when visiting temples as most of them require guests to take off their shoes before entering the temple.
Use sunscreen and bring a hat/cap. A lot of times, you will be walking under the scorching heat of the sun.
You need to buy the ticket for Angkor Wat a day before if you want to visit early morning and watch the sunrise. The best time to go is at 4:00 AM.
Bring your own water tumbler. Most restaurants/tourists spots do not offer free water.
Book ahead of time your bus and train tickets via 12go.asia.com to make sure that you do not run out of slots.
Pack light. This itinerary is mostly composed of land travel hence it is highly recommended that you use backpacks.
Download the maps.me app. You can use it offline as long as you download the map of the place beforehand.