36 hours overland travel from Cambodia to Laos, transiting in Bangkok, Thailand. (Because Thailand is not in our itinerary)
Read numerous blogs and guides on the friendship bridge between Nong Khai, Thailand and Vientiane, Laos, ever since I bought the one way air ticket in September. Till then, still unsure of what to expect, we let nature take its own course.
Took the cheapest (as usual) midnight bus from our hostel in Siem Reap, Tom and Jerry Guesthouse, to Bangkok. Nope, nothing taught in school could be applied (yet) but dished out my non-existent social skills and EQ and made friend with a solo Russian traveller. Equally lost and confused at border crossing and sought refuge in each other.
Cambodia-Thailand border crossing was the most confusing one I experienced throughout the trip. Probably because we reached before the nation anthem and stood there with our broken spines from the gravitational forces and weight of our backpacks. No, I wasn't trying to be an OCD clean freak but poultry were with us at the border crossing. (Tip: just get your passport chopped and walk all the way straight to scan your baggage. Tip 2: don't stare at the immigration officers. Tip 3: just do whatever the other tourists are doing.)
Fast forward, we made it Hualampong Train Station in Bangkok after changing from buses to mini vans to SongTheow (bigger Tuktuks). Since SGD is obviously not as strong as Euros or Pounds, the difference between 2nd class sleeper and 3rd class would cost us 3 full meals. (15-20sgd) Don't have to guess which we went for. And I don't even know why we were fretting about not getting tickets when we will be the only foreigners on the 3rd class train, we got to the train station 5 hours before departure, just to tick "sleeping on train station's floor" off our bucket list.
830pm. Boarded the train because departure is in 15mins, only to receive overly concerned locals -- chasing us off the trains. They strongly believe we got cheated by the counter or got on the wrong train because no foreigners ever taken the 3rd class. So not wanting to piss them off or not heed their kind advice, we found ourselves running helter-skelter and back to our original seats on the same train.
1015pm. This locomotive decided to get a life. (This is why you need to +/- 5hours for travelling time). First, we had two monks giving us two amulets because they were worried about our safety but since we were girls, the conversation only got as far to showing us the tattoos on his arm. Beside me was this middle aged man who kindly donated us his guazi nuts (the last I checked, I haven't lost too much weight then) and held a 3 hour long conversation with me, both speaking different languages. My personal favourite encounter on this train was the ladyboy who was secretly strong but coy. The biggest takeaway was the friendship fostered. Physical flexibility and patience came close behind.
(Not really an) Ordeal of the friendship bridge.
1) get off the train and you'll have herds of tukkies ready to rip you off. But you'll take any, anyway since that's the only way to get to Laos border.
2) the tuktuk will drop you at the Laos border. Get your passport stamped.
3) Laotian tukkies will be here to haunt. So we wanted to go to Vientiane City (old market). Market price for a tuktuk ride for 2 would be 4USD, at most. (Tip: do change more local currency at Vientiane. Serves the best rates and probably the only place with money changer around. Unlike Cambodia, Laos do not really work around USD.)
And in Vientiane, Laos, we got abandoned by our couch host...
PS sorry for bad pictures' quality. Posting via mobile