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The second leg of our Adveture - Leaving the Safari

sunny 40 °C

So that is it. After 5 months, dozens of new scars from tiger bites and leopard scratches, blood, sweat and the occasional tear, countless bottles of whiskey and beer, and many many new friends, we have left the safari. Although we are ready it was very hard to leave, we have been treated like family by the boss Joe and the Thai staff, everyone was upset to see us go, all they asked was ‘When are you coming back?’, ‘You travel quickly now an come back’.

Our last two weeks there were a definite mixed bag. When we arrived back from our break in Chiang Mai, the first thing we did was inform every one of our decision to leave. This was taken better by some people than others. Our first few days back were difficult to say the least, but thankfully certain people left and took the bad atmosphere with them. Our last ten days have been a total contrast, for a couple of days we were alone with B, a vet from Brazil who become our new drinking friend and then we were joined by two new volunteers Sean and Carris. We had a lot of laughs and the fun of volunteering at the safari returned. It was perfect for our last week. We got a lot of things done and put lots of things in place with the boss and the Thai staff to ensure the project will continue even if there are no volunteers. Chelsea wrote to-do lists for the staff and a rota so that any volunteers can experience all aspects of the safari even if they just come for a week. One of the highlights was taking Latte, the baby leopard we helped raise onto the safari. She is now almost seven months old and is ready. Chelsea has been weaning her off milk and Monday walked her round and handed her over to Mr Num, the leopard keeper. She was afraid and managed to climb into the roof which we had to deal with but once she gets used to it she will have a great life in the huge safari enclosure. The cherry on the cake, as far as we are concerned, is that for the last two days we had the lion cub to take care of. She is incredible, very cute, very grumpy and so big for only two months old. We spent the majority of our last days playing with her and laughing at how grumpy she is. On our last afternoon Sanapong took us in to the safari where we got to walk and hand feed all the animals, deer, giraffe, flamingos and zebra. We got to see the lions and tigers up close on the safari and it was a really fun, perfect way to end. On our last night Sean and Carris presented a bottle of rum and beers which we had fun finishing, playing games and talking.

We left on Tuesday morning; we exchanged a few good bye gifts, a lot of tears and took one of the safari buses into Kanchanaburi. It was hard saying goodbye to YaYa our seven and a half month old tiger but she will soon be on the safari and have a fantastic life. Tuesday was a long and hot day. We took a minibus to Bangkok after breakfast and this took an hour longer than normal. Liam was seated next to an American man who lives in Thailand and right from the word go he was talking to Liam and did not stop until we got off in Bangkok. Chelsea slept for most of the journey, although Liam is fairly sure she was pretending for half of it. In Bangkok we were just waiting for our train. It did not depart until 8pm so passed the time with a bit of retail therapy and then a couple of beers while researching our new destination. When it turned late afternoon we made our way to the train station, bought our ticket, ate dinner and washed it down with a couple more beers.

We are very excited to be travelling again, the last time was in Myanmar, and although we have had fun little trips whilst at safari we always knew we were going back, or we were spending days getting visa’s. To not have any plans again, and no time restraint is great. Our first stop is Vang Vieng, Laos. Apparently it has changed recently from a bit of a party mecca to a more relaxed vibe so we are looking forward to it. Having been to Vientiane for the visa a couple of month back Vang Vieng is the next stop on the map at this particular border crossing. Same as Vientiane we caught the night train to Nong Khai which is really easy to do and costs around 700 baht, and then catch a smaller train across the border to Thanaleng for 20 baht each.

The border crossing was quick and simple and in no time we were in a taxi on route to the bus station. All was going well but then the taxi driver pulled over to tell us that the bus to Vang Vieng was expensive and we should get a minivan. After a short debate where it looked like he wasn’t going to take no for an answer ‘Ok’ we said; ‘take us to the bus station anyway’. We are used to people trying to rip us off. The bus station was usual south east Asian chaos, no signs, people everywhere, no clue as to where we were supposed to be. On top of this people kept approaching us to sell us things we did not want. Welcome back to life on the road. We eventually managed to get a minivan to our hotel of choice in Vang Vieng for only £1 more than the public bus, this would also save us having to pay for a taxi from the bus station once we arrived, and is quicker. The public bus costs 40,000 kip and the minivan cost us 50,000 kip. Our train into Nong Khai was late and by the time we had sorted all this out, and grabbed a quick lunch it was nearly 1pm.

The journey to Vang Vieng was not great. The road conditions in Laos are poor, you practically bounce up and down in your seat the whole way. Most of the journey is in the hills, which although makes great scenery, the road is forever meandering. It was all too much for one woman at the front who started to vomit, first into her coat, and then into a plastic bag. It took longer than expected but we arrived around 4pm in Vang Vieng. We managed to book into our guesthouse, Nam Song Garden, a nice, cheap and clean little place on the Nam Song River that runs through the town for 40,000 kip a night.


Our first impressions of Vang Vieng are good. It is very quiet, being low season, which we like and the surroundings are beautiful, large green mountains and jungle sit opposite the river. The town is small but is definitely catered to western tourists. There does not seem to be much authentic Laos remaining but it is very beautiful and it seems a great place to spend a few days relaxing and figuring out where we want to go during our time in Laos.


Posted by Chelsandliam 21:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand laos volunteering vang vieng Comments (2)

Grahams Tour of Thailand

sunny 40 °C

Over the last week or so we have had an incredible time travelling with Liam’s Dad, Graham. We have shown him the work we have been up to at the safari, tackled the hectic Bangkok, and travelled north to Chiang Mai where we visited the zoo, and Liam’s Dad made a new Thai friend on a crazy night out with our friends.

Graham landed on the night of Thursday 6th. We left the safari the Tuesday before to have a relaxing day around the pool Wednesday before going to meet him. We met him at the airport in Bangkok, which is not in the best location, several kilometres outside of central Bangkok. Considering, in our opinion, how difficult Bangkok is to get around we found it relatively straightforward. After finding some accommodation near Khao San Road we caught a bus to Victory Monument and then a minivan for 40 baht each that took us all the way to the airport. Liam’s Dad met us around 9pm in arrivals, it took him an age to get though immigration due to several planes landing at the same time. It was great to see him though for the first time in six months and after our hellos we caught a shuttle bus to the transport centre. Liam's dad managed to loose his hat within the first fifteen minutes in Thailand due to all the excitement. We then caught a taxi back to our guesthouse. It was late by the time we got back but we caught up over a couple of beers before heading to bed to be up early for our first full day.

The plan for the first couple of days was Kanchanaburi. We caught the minivan from Victory Monument in the morning, it was late arriving into Kanchanaburi however due to the Bangkok traffic which Graham found unbelievable and mentioned several times (he can never moan about traffic in the UK again). We had booked into our favourite guesthouse in Kanchanaburi, Pong Phen and once we finally arrived and checked in we went out to see the main sight of the town. Graham was interested in seeing the Bridge over the River Kwai so that was our first stop, we still had the bike from Safari so we used that rather than walking as time was getting away from us. We managed to go Thai style and fit three on a bike. The Bridge is not as spectacular as it is made out to be but saying that it is still a must see in Kanchanaburi, Liam’s Dad was not disappointed and enjoyed walking along it and taking plenty of photos.


On the way there we went to see the leopard Mocha, that is chained to a table in Kanchanaburi as advertisement for the safari park. Its horrible to see but we wanted to show Graham what we were trying to change. There was a surprise though as aswell as Mocha there was one of the new tiny leopard cubs in a cage as well. We did not expect this and it looked terrified next to busy road. Chelsea got to feed her, and then Graham held her whilst we were talking to Mr Tip (the guy who looks after them) and tried to make sure he was at least looking after them properly. We were then a good twenty minutes and the cub fell asleep on Graham, we had to prize her off him to go and see the bridge.

After the bridge we took Liam’s Dad to see the Thailand Burma Railway museum. It is a great museum, the best of the three n town and has lots of information, and artefacts from the PoW’s and camps. We were there a good hour and once you have finished on the top floor you overlook the cemetery where the PoW’s that served Kanchanaburi are buried. Graham really enjoyed the museum and we enjoyed it as much as our first visit. We went back to the guesthouse around 5pm and had an hour relaxing in the pool before going out for something to eat. Grahams first Thai dish was Pad Ka Pow (pork, chillies and basil) which he thoroughly enjoyed. We had an Indian curry, rice and rotti.... after nearly five months at the safari we are having a small break from Thai food.

Saturday was Safari day and we were up early. We had to rent bikes and had to be at the safari for 8.30am to walk the cubs at 9am. It threatened to rain on the way but luckily held off. We took Liam’s dad to see Blue (the big male tiger who gets chained to the table) and the tiger cub in their night enclosures before he walked Latte the leopard cub. He loved walking her and she was really good and walked practically to heel all the way. Yaya the tiger cub (we have found out a few weeks ago her name is not Tat but Yaya) joined us with Ned and Toy on the way. Once we got the cubs to their day time area we let Graham spend a good hour or so with them, bottle feeding them, and seeing the work we have been doing. After this we took him to see the monkeys we have been working with and then on to the elephant show. The show is still not great but again we wanted to show Graham the stuff we are trying to change. As it is father’s day in the UK this month Liam then bought his Dad a twenty minute elephant trek through the jungle. Graham got to ride our big female bareback something he had never done. We then went for a lunch of noodle soup in the restaurant, not before getting a photo with the macaws, and the onto the actual safari. Although at first Graham was alarmed by being six feet away from free big cats with the windows of the bus open he loved it and obviously the giraffes at the end was the highlight. At one point Chelsea put carrots on his head and shoulders so he was totally surrounded by them. By this point it was really hot and see as though we were not working we went to the local village for a beer and to show Liam’s Dad a non-touristy village. Once the worst of the heat was over we rode our bikes back to Kanchanaburi, lazed around the pool for couple of hours before going out for pizza (Chelsea’s choice) to end an amazing day. We were really proud to show Liams dad around our home for the last 4 months and show him all our babies and the work we have done. He was completely overwhelmed and we loved that he had such a good time.


Our original idea for Sunday was to go see Bangkok before taking the overnight train to Chiang Mai. However Graham was loving the peaceful river Kwai so we decided to linger here, relax around the pool and make our way to Bangkok later. We arrived around 4pm and went to the train station. Despite a woman trying to rip us off we bought the tickets easily and then passed the time sat outside, eating a street stall and drinking beer in a small café. The train was Graham’s first overnight train experience and he seemed to really enjoy it. We left Bangkok around 7pm and arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning 8.30am the following day.

After a slight difficulty finding somewhere to stay (there were a lot of bad places and the good places didn’t have two rooms) we found a nice place SK Guesthouse that cost 300 Baht a night and had a pool, perfect. We then went to explore the city. Chiang Mai is quite large but the main area is within a square moat. It is very nice and has lots of small side streets with bars and restaurants. We spent the first day visiting some of the major temples in the area. Liam’s Dad was amazed by how ornate they were, our pictures and descriptions can not really give them justice. There was a good mix of small still in use temples, a large one which was quite touristy and a old ruin in the middle of the city. In between this there was a small market which we walked down and bought some BBQ meat on sticks as a little snack. After walking around for a few hours we made our way back to the guesthouse and made use of the pool and relaxed with a couple of beers. In the evening we went to a night bazaar with was incredible. It stretched the whole length of a large street on both sides, went into two small mall areas and into a separate large square. We browsed the shops, Graham bought presents for some people back home, we ate at some street stalls, and finished off with a pint in an Irish bar. It was a incredible first day in Chiang Mai and we were all looking forward to the rest of our time there.


Our second day in Chiang Mai was one of the best of the whole trip. We had decided the night previous to go to Chiang Mai zoo and for one reason….pandas. We got up early to a little bit of rain and made our way to the zoo. It is cheap to get in the main zoo, 100 baht, and then the same again to get in the panda section and there is also an aquarium which again you pay extra. We decided to do the lot and were not disappointed. We did the aquarium first. The highlight of the aquarium was the underwater tunnel which boasts to be the largest in the world (don’t know how true this is) but it was great. When we got there, there was a fish feeding show where a diver goes into the tanks and feeds absolutely massive fish that frantically swim around him trying to get fed. It was great to watch and we could not believe the size of some of the fish. The rays were also cool as they slid up the glass and you could see underneath them, they again were the size of the diver. Around the other side of the tunnel there was the same show but with small sharks, that was equally entertaining.


From the aquarium we went straight to see the pandas, as there was a school group turned up and we wanted to get there before them. It was unbelievable. The first panda was behind glass and sat in a upright position eating small bits of wood, we had never seen anything like it. We then went into the second section and it was even more incredible. There were two more pandas, separated, but there was no glass. We were with 6 feet of them, totally alone, they were sat upright in actual chairs! Again all they did was eat, one of them got up and walked around 8 feet before flopping down and laying on its stomach. We spent ages in there just taking photos and quietly watching them before the school group turned up. The pandas just sat there eating, watching us it was an amazing experience.


The rest of the zoo was also great and it is nice to see that there is a zoo in Thailand that is a good standard; a couple of enclosures are a bit small but there a different league to all our other experiences of Thai zoos. Other firsts for us were Koalas, a black panther and white tigers. Chelsea’s favourite came at the end though when we went to see the Hippos. They were absolutely massive and you could buy food for 10 baht and feed them. As soon as we turned up they came up to us and opened their huge mouths. We had to buy food. It was awesome, the hippos were not 3 feet away as we threw bits of potatoes into their mouths.


We were very tired though after walking around the zoo, it is very hilly and spread out so we went back to the guesthouse to relax. The plan for the night was to meet Dannii and Adam who had come to Chiang Mai after leaving the safari. We met them in the evening at a nice riverside bar, we had a good meal, and plenty of drinks listening to some live music. Then Danniis friend a tuk- tuk driver turned up and took all SIX of us in his tuk-tuk to a jazz bar. It was cramped and hilarious and the tuk-tuk driver continually said 'oh my Buddha!' the whole way. This was packed so we only had one drink before going to another bar where we stayed until it closed at 2am, listening to live bands. We were all having a great time, drunk way too much and Graham befriended the tuk tuk driver. It was a great night and an incredible day.


The day after, we planned to meet up with Dannii and Adam again to go to a waterfall for a more relaxing day. Chelsea had a hangover from hell, so hardly spoke for most of the day and slept a lot, including the back of the taxi while we all had breakfast. The waterfall itself known as sticky waterfall as you can climb up it was quite far out from the city but was worth it. We took a bit of a picnic and some beers and relaxed at the bottom before tackling the climb up, Chelsea had come around a bit by this point and even did the climb. The waterfall really is sticky, although there are some slippery spots, it is around 40 degrees so it is not difficult and you can practically walk up. We all managed to get to the top without any slips. Graham loved it and was up and down two or three times.


By this point the night before was catching up with us. We went back for a nap before going out for dinner. As it was our last night in Chiang Mai, the three of us went out alone. We were back early however and retired so we could be up early to make the most of our last day before the train ride back to Bangkok.

Our final day in Chiang Mai, we decided to rent some bikes and visit ia temple in the surrounding hills called Doi Sutep. We left early and rode the bikes up the meandering road that climbs the hill. It was a great drive and gave incredible view over the city. At the top, the temple was on another small hill that we had to climb around 300 steps to get to. It was worth it though and was very busy with both worshippers and tourists alike. It was basically a large golden stupa surrounded by smaller temples and shrines, it was very ornate and we spent quite a while slowly looking around before driving back down the hill. We passed the rest of the time before our train arrived talking our lunch and a few beers, tomorrow would be our last full day and it had gone so fast. We got the train at 5pm and arrived in Bangkok around 9am Friday morning.


Liam’s Dad was not really looking forward to seeing Bangkok, it was too busy, noisy and dirty for him, and us being there now 7 times are starting to agree. We took him to one of our favourite sights however, Wat Po, which houses the massive reclining Buddha. We spent over an hour walking around the huge complex, which has many temples most of which were tourist free as many leave after the reclining Buddha. From here we took the ferry up the river as it is way more scenic and nowhere near has hectic as the roads. We took Graham for walks around the mad Khao San Road area before going back to get ready for the night. Graham flew back early Saturday morning so planned to take the last bus that night to the airport. We decided to spend our last few hour together at Chinatown as it is one of the best parts in Bangkok in our opinion.

We arrived a little before dark so went to a tiny street stall and bought a couple of beers (the staff went to the 7 eleven and bought the beer before selling them back to us). They stall sold BBQ chicken which the elderly owners tempted us with so we ordered some. They were delicious, served with a spicy satay dip we had twenty but could have eaten twice as many. After we ordered some toasted bread to soak up the rest of the sauce... it was that yummy! Afterwards we went to a street stall for our main meal that we remembered from the last time we were here. It is a stall where the chef cooks all the dishes in a couple of woks, he is always busy and he is super entertaining just to watch him cook, he never has anything written down and there is always a constant flame from the wok. He is so quick, no meal take more than a couple of minutes. Been the last supper we went all out, ordered deep fried pork, shrimps with noodles and a whole fish for us the share Thai style. It was one of the best meals we have ever had, Liam’s Dad agreed and we lapped it up in minutes. Graham and us alike loved Chinatown. The whole street is alight with neon signs and all the streets are packed with street vendors selling everything you could possibly want to eat. People wander through pushing carts filled with all sorts and the traffic is wall to wall non-stop. It is busy but exhilarating. You sit on small stools at the side of the road eating some of the cheapest but most delicious food going.

Before Graham left for the airport we had time for a few beers to say goodbye. It was sad to see him go, we had an amazing week and it was awesome to share this experience with him. We hope he has enjoyed it has much as we have. He is already talking about coming to see us so we very much hope to see him again, maybe in India….

Posted by Chelsandliam 23:57 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand chiang mai kanchanaburi Comments (3)

Photoblog, last two weeks at Safari Park

all seasons in one day 35 °C

Since our last blog entry there have been several dramas at the Safari Park. This has concluded with people leaving that we were sad to see go. On top of this there have been a few short term volunteers that have left after becoming good friends. The hardest part of been here long term is having to say goodbye to so many good people.

As we have not entered a blog for a while, and so much has happened outside the usual running of things we have decided to just upload lots of photos of the things we have been up to. Our work has been again mainly with the cubs, outside of work we have been having far too many parties and have consumed far too many bottles of whisky.

After Liam last time, the latest staff party karaoke was all about Chelsea, here she is singing Take That with another volunteer Gwen.


On cubs Chelsea has been doing great with the Training.


And there has been improvements has we have now hooked up a 50 metre line between two trees that the cubs are attached to with there lead that gives them so much more room to run around.


Enrichment for the cubs has been a big priority and they both love to destroy watermelons


Our lion cub is growing at an alarming rate, she is a month old and bigger than leopards twice her age.


On a day when a hangover was too much to work with some of us went to another local zoo. It was awful and the animals were in terrible conditions, just showed to us the importance of the work we do. The plus side was there was a awesome baby gibbon that was allowed out of its cage. Chelsea did not go as she was on cubs, she was very jealous afterwards......


This weekend the boss Joe took us to a local school's 65th anniversary party. It was lots of fun, we had a great seven course meal (that included fish guts soup) the obligatory bottle of whiskey and there were carnival games.


Finally here is a belated photo of us during the amazing Songkran festival back in April, we have only just got the photos as we did not take our camera due to the water


We now take ten days off from the safari as Liam's dad is coming to see us. We are very excited, and looking forward to enjoying a few days sightseeing and relaxing together. We are sneaking in a lazy pool day tomorrow so we can be totally refreshed for when he arrives.

Posted by Chelsandliam 00:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (1)

Last Days in Vientiane and back to Safari

sunny 41 °C

Our last two days in Vientiane were more or less the same as the first two. We had to pick up our Thai visa, which thankfully was an easier process than applying for it, but this was not until after 13.30. We decided to walk to the embassy, see some sights on the way and stop off at any nice café we spotted. Once we had had breakfast we set off and it soon became apparent we had made a mistake. It was incredibly hot, far too hot to walk in and as we jumped from shade to shade we also realised there were no cafe's in this section of the city either. We did manage to see a sight, a large monument based on the Arc D'Triumphe in Paris. It was a huge concrete square, hollow inside with an arched entrance on each side. From a distance it looks impressive but once you are underneath it is a bit disappointing. It has been took over by locals who run a few small shops inside. At least it provided plenty of shade and we had a drink before setting back off to the embassy.

That evening we decided to have a bit of a luxury night and after our canapés and buy one get one free beer at I-Beam bar we set off to the river. We walked along the Mekong river at sunset, it was a stunning sight, and there are a few higher class bars. The whole place seems to either newly, or soon to be, renovated. We stopped off at a nice bar and had a cocktail while the sun went down. After we walked back up river, through a night market and tried to find somewhere to eat. We settled on a little French restaurant called Le Provence. We ordered two pizzas and they were delicious. Super thin and crispy base with anchovies, salami and mozzarella. The best pizza we have had in Asia.

On our last day before catching the night train, we took advantage of our last lay in and spent the rest of the time in a café drinking chocolate milkshake and chatting before going to the train station. We just missed the first connecting train to Nong Kai in Thailand to where the over night train starts. We had to wait until 5pm for the next one so passed the time drinking beers at tiny shop at the end of the platform. The night train itself was not as good as before, mainly due to the air con being too high and Chelsea did not sleep as she was too cold. We arrived in Bangkok at around 7am and after a quick breakfast, jumped in a minivan that took us to Kanchanaburi.

We arrived back at the safari on Saturday afternoon, unfortunately we did not come back to very good news as one of the puppies, George, had died that morning. Needless to say the whole team was devastated and no one was really working, We decided to get together that night on the river and have a few drinks to cheer everyone up. George has been buried by the river too, with a little cross which has his dog collar rapped around.

Sunday everyone was still a bit down but we had to get back to work. Us two got to go on cubs again. Chelsea was a little annoyed as Tat the tiger was not as responsive as when she left. Probably because the other people looking after her have not been doing it the same way. Liam was with Latte and was determined to get through the whole day without a scratch or bite, that lasted around 30 seconds when she jumped out of he night enclosure and scratched him on the hand. Latte is relentless at trying to bite. and jump at you, she will listen when you tell her off but she seems to forget after 2 minutes and will come straight back at you. Luckily it is just playing so the bites don't do any damage.

Yesterday Chelsea went back on cubs and has got Tat back to how she was before she left, Liam worked on Coffee the leopards cage. It is a double cage that we are planning to use half of for Tat when she is two big for her current one. The first job was to put up a visual barrier so Coffee and Tat would not be able to see each other as this would make Tat uncontrollable. So some of the team spent the day cable tying bamboo that had been split lengthwise to the mesh of the cage. It was very time consuming work but we managed to get in done.

In the evening we had been invited to 'staff meeting' by Joe the boss. The meeting was actually a party and Joe bought in drinks and food for both his Thai staff and us. It was a great night and we all drank way too much whisky and beer. We also got to try Thai white whisky, which is a horrible. Joe was making us shot it every so often and each time is was hard to keep down. Thai people love Karaoke so there was a karaoke machine set up and the Thai's were on it from the word go. It took several drinks before any of the volunteers had the courage to go up and by the end of the night we were all up there killing song after song. After we run out of ideas for songs to sing we sang them twice. It must have been awful for the Thai staff listening to us but it was a little bit of revenge.

Today has been a right off. We have all had serious hang overs. We have looked after the cubs, well Liam has looked after the cubs, Chelsea has laid asleep on the floor all day outside the cub enclosure. Thankfully we have had no customers and the cubs have been amazing, they just both laid in their doorways next to us all day as we recovered so it was not too much of a hassle. It is fair to say tonight is going to be an early one to catch up from last night.

Posted by Chelsandliam 05:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand volunteering kanchanaburi Comments (3)

Kanchanaburi to Bangkok to Vientiane

sunny 38 °C

 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 :)  

Posted by Chelsandliam 09:59 Archived in Laos Tagged thailand laos kanchanaburi vientiene Comments (3)

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