Our first day off in several weeks started with a well needed lay in. We were up and packed by 9.30 though, said goodbye to our oversized kittens and on our way into town. We sorted out our motorbike which we hadn't paid for in around six weeks, paid up and went for some breakfast. We paid for a mini van to take us into Bangkok from a local tour company as the public bus takes you right to the southern bus terminal which is too far out for our quick departure through Bangkok. We sat and waited for it to arrive until 1.30pm on the river Kwai with a drink. It was lovely to be doing nothing. The bus to Bangkok only took two hours and we both fell asleep. When we arrived in Bangkok near Khao San road we immediately shared a taxi with two girls from our bus to the train station. Our bus driver had advised us not to pay more than 200B and the mans first quote was a million baht and then 800B. Anyone that knows Chelsea can assume she was not amused and after a small and intense barter/argument / game with the man trying to wind us up and rip us off she got the taxi man down to the right price. We don't actually think he wanted to take us at all and wasn't pleased he had to actually do some work we think.
We booked our ticket no problem and with no reservation. There are several people with official name tags in the station that are there to give information and help, just be careful as there are also lots of people pretending to help. We got a second class, air conditioned ticket for the 8pm nighttrain, costing 700B all the way to Nong Kai. We had four hours to kill so we wandered accros the road to a street stall and had some food. Chelsea had duck and rice and Liam has spicy Papaya salad. It was delicious. Bangkok is hectic and often unpleasant but the food is awesome. After our bellies were full we went into a bar and had several drinks until it was around half seven and then we crossed the road backI to the station to get our train.
The train was a lot better than expected. The bottom bunks are marginally more expensive that the tops but they are both really comfy. The bottom bunk starts off as two chairs and then as it gets later the train porter comes around, makes the beds and then one person moves to the top bunk. There are fresh sheets, blankets and a mattress, as well as a curtain. There are sinks and toilets and a dinner and breakfast service. It is really nice and we enjoyed sitting on the bottom bunk talking and reading until we were too tired and went to sleep. It gets a little bumpy but we both had a really good sleep and the man had to wake us up to serve us breakfast.
Breakfast was chicken rice soup, coffee and orange juice and after we sat on the bottom bunk snoozing and reading until it was time to get off. We arrived in Nong Kai at around 9am to 9.30am and didn't even feel groggy from the travel. We would definatey recommend night trains in Thailand. They are spotless and comfortable and we got a lot better sleep than we do on a bus.
When we arrived in Nong Kai we then had to get a shuttle train across the border into Laos, to Thanaleng. It only costs 20B and is really easy. You go through Thai immigration at Nong Kai and they stamp you out of Thailand on the platform. You them board the train which only takes around fifteen minutes. When you arrive you are in Laos. We applied for our visa on arrival at the station which costs 35 dollars and filled in the form and then caught a pickup truck into Vientiane, which is only around half and hour to forty minutes away.
The whole process was incredibly stress free and simple and we actually really enjoyed the traveling which never happens. We would even go as far to say we are looking forward to the train back. Haha
When we arrived in Vientiane we weren't sure what to expect. We had done no research on where to stay or what the city was like so set off in search of a guesthouse. We looked in around five before we settled on one. We are staying in Mixok Guest House for 130000Kip a night. It has air con, an on suite, wifi and free breakfast. It is clean but basic so we are happy. We settled into our new home for a few days and then decided to explore the city.
Some of the streets are quite wide with lanes of busy traffic while others are small side streets with independent guesthouses, cafes and shops. We wandered the streets and went into a little French cafe for some lunch. It was beautiful inside and outside and we were instantly transported to Europe. We both ordered warm sandwiches, Liam roast beef, potato and mustard and Chelsea, tomato, pesto and mozzarella. It was delicious and for desert we had a macaroon. We are surprised by the amount of French inspired cafes there are in the city. We are aware of the French occupation of Laos but we didn't expect such a big presence still. Some of the places are small and charming but others are extremely glitzy and modern. It is like no other city we have been to so far.
After a slow paced afternoon wandering we showered and decided to go out for some tea and drinks. We were on route to a restaurant called La Vendrome which had good reviews when we spotted a posh bar called I-Bar with a happy hour sign. We went inside and with any beer you got one free and received free entrees. We ordered our drinks and they brought round tiny offerings of different flavours, pate, blue cheese, sun dried tomato and olive. It was a lovely atmosphere and we made ourselves hungry with tiny offerings of delicious bite size snacks so we made our way to the restaurant. The place was a small building, covered in ivy and was really cute. We ordered our meals and a carafe of wine and really enjoyed it. Liam had pasta and Chelsea has pizza and both were extremely good.
Just as we were about to leave it started to pour down with rain so we decided to wait until it passed. It was a massive thunder storm, the biggest we have ever seen. The lightning lit up the whole sky and the thunder vibrated inside your chest. Chelsea was a bit scared to walk through it so we waited for it to pass a little before we headed back.
Our first impressions of Vientiane are really good. It is a lot more upmarket than we expected and there is no shortage of nice bars and places to eat. Hopefully we can fit quite a few in before our time is done