AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Kanchanaburi to Nong Khai

Four days in Kanchanaburi had given us enough time to see everything we thought was worth bothering with, it was time to leave. We had decided that it was time to leave Thailand and move on. When we had roughly planned the route this trip would take we had planned on visiting Laos after Thailand. Then after a few weeks in Laos we would travel back into Thailand to Bangkok in order to fly to Nepal. So off to Laos we went.

The easiest route for us to take would be to take the train to Bangkok then catch the overnight train to Nong Khai which is on the Thai side of the Thai-Laos border. There is a large border crossing in Nong Khai where we can then get a bus or taxi into Vientiane.

The train was due to leave Kanchanaburi at 7:15am, so we were up and out of the hotel just after sunrise. Unfortunately, the train was 30 minutes late (almost all trains in Thailand run late) which was annoying as I could have had a little more sleep. But we were able to eat our breakfast on the platform whilst we waited. A few days earlier we had discovered the 7/11 stores (small convenience stores) which are everywhere, sold the small UK breakfast cereal boxes. I had the Frosties and Annemarie had some chocolate cereal by Nestlé. (This became our budget breakfast in Thailand at 20p per box it was a bargain).

The carriage was very dusty because we had picked third class, which has no air con, so the windows were wide open. The air is thick with dust from the soil been turned and also lots of ash from the constant burning of trees. We wiped the seats with wet wipes and the bright white cloth went black.

We arrived in Bangkok around 11am and the temperature had already reached 35 degrees. The train from Kanchanaburi uses the Thon Buri station on the west of Bangkok. The main train station is Hua Lamphong which is on the east side of the river and closer to the centre of the city. Our chosen route was a 15 minute walk from Thon Buri to the ferry pier on the Chao Phraya river, go to pier number 3 by the Sheraton hotel and walk about another 15-20 minutes to Hua Lamphong. This could be avoided by simply jumping in a taxi, but we had vowed to not give Bangkok taxi drivers any more money unless we really had to because we had had so much trouble finding an honest driver in the past (they either took the least direct route or refused to turn the meter on). Besides, we need to get fit for Nepal so the walk will do us good.

Carrying the bags was not a problem, but the 35 degrees made this a slightly less pleasant journey. By the time we reached the ferry pier we were dripping in sweat. Lucky a good breeze as we sailed down the river cooled us. We had a chocolate croissant each as a snack near the Sheraton which quickly reminded us of the price difference between Bangkok and the rest of Thailand. We had paid 100baht each for a 3 hour train ride and the croissants were 80baht each. We ended up spending the same on a quick snack than we had on the journey to Bangkok from Kanchanaburi. The walk to Hua Lamphong was another hot slog, but worth it just to make sure the Bangkok taxi drivers didn’t get a few quid off us.

We reached the station and quickly bought the train tickets for that night. It left at 8pm, giving us just over 8 hours in Bangkok. So we put our bags into storage at 70THB each and caught the MRT to the huge shopping malls of Sukhumvit. Here we could buy a few bits ‘n bobs we needed and eat some good food, all inside some very clean and modern air conditioned spaces. We had a coffee (proper coffee) and cupcake each and wandered the shops. Bloody expensive! An early tea in the MBK center then it was back on the Skytrain back to the train station.

The train was a different setup to any other night train we had been on before. Each side had a wide seat, very wide for one person but not quite wide enough for two (without sitting very squashed and not quite straight). These then flattened into beds which were lengthways in the carriage. All the night trains we’d been on so far had the beds going across the carriage, from side to side. There was no cabins, just a long running length of beds up each side of the carriage. But this train had two good things, firstly there was a soft mattress which was laid over the seat at night making the beds comfortable and secondly, each bed had a curtain. Despite the bed been the most comfortable yet neither of us slept properly on the train. It rocked and swayed far too much for me to be able to really get to sleep, I half slept for a few hours. The trains in Vietnam were the same, they swayed too much and we never slept properly on those either. I guess it’s something to do with narrow gauge railways causing the swaying motion more than a standard gauge.

We arrived in Nong Khai at about 8am and had a 20 minute walk to the hotel we had booked. I had booked this hotel specifically because it was close enough to the train station to walk.

The hotel was very casual. They asked which company we had used to book the hotel with (Booking.com makes you pay at the hotel but Agoda, Hotels.com and Expedia takes the money when you book and pays the hotel directly) and then let us eat breakfast whilst they quickly cleaned the room for us.

We ate and started browsing hotels in Vientiane (we usually book the next hotel as soon as we know when we’re leaving and this hotel was booked for 3 nights), then went to our room to sleep. Just before sleeping Annemarie had complained that the hotels in Laos were quite expensive and either had rubbish reviews (a hotel must have good reviews on Trip Advisor and booking.com) or were in a location. I’d aired an idea in frustration, not exactly seriously, of skipping Laos and getting the train back to Bangkok then the train from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, spend a few days there then fly to Nepal. Someone (dunno who) had suggested skip Laos and fly to the Philippines from Bangkok. At this point I went to sleep.

I woke around 2pm to find Annemarie had hardly slept. She had spent most of the time researching Laos and had now come to the opinion that she didn’t really care about going. Most of the sites were religious sites and the one thing we wanted to do – trekking – could only be done as a properly organised tour which costs a lot of money. We really don’t want to pay to go for a walk in the woods. The hotels cost a lot more than Thailand and didn’t sound as good.

So we quickly went through some options and decided we should get the train back to Bangkok and fly to Manila in the Philippines. With this decided and most of the day gone we went for a wander into Nong Khai to see the town before the sun set.

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