About a year ago, I figured that school just wasn’t for me. I dropped out of university. When I dropped out, I lost the privilege to extend my EDU visa any further. I still had about 10 months on my last visa, which lasted till last month when I flew to Wee-Town (Singapore) for a 1-month extension visa. I figured every month I would continue doing this as a way to kind of work-and-travel one weekend out of every month. I soon learned that the immigration here hates that, so without much choice left, I went for a tourist visa in Laos. This is the epic *coughnotcough* story of my time in Laos.
I had a few options to get out to Vientiane, Laos. The first choice was a direct flight out there, but I wanted to see the country-side a bit. I decided a train might be fun. I bought my second class sleeper car ticket (First class was all taken… damn.), got aboard around 8 PM, started my travels out to Nong Khai, Thailand, the closest station before getting to Laos.
Well, it wasn’t that simple… the train didn’t leave until about an hour after schedule. That was a bad omen. After the train left, I thought I had the lower deck sleeper all to myself. When an old lady, who got on a few stations later down the line, ripped open the curtain only to find me preparing for a nights rest, I was as surprised as she. She got priority, for whatever reason and I was stuck up on the upper deck bunk.
Ahhh childhood memories love to stick with us, and the one that scarred me for life was the one where I rolled off the top bunk. The upper bunk here didn’t really make for a great night’s sleep. There was no window, so I had no idea what was going on outside. The bed was fricking tiny. Two feet wide, tops, and there was no guard rail stopping me from repeating history, just some tiny seat belts. The anxiety kept me awake most of the night until I eventually passed out on my own. I slept for about 2 hours and woke up at what time we were supposed to arrive at Nong Khai, only to find out we were still two hours away. Not good.
And I say, “not good”, because the Thai Consulate I needed to drop my docs off at stops taking new passports in at 12. It was 10:30 by the time I got to the train station.
I hopped in a tuk-tuk and for 30 baht was taken to Friendship Bridge, one of the checkpoints between the Thai and Laos border. I checked out of Thailand, got on the bus across the bridge (costs 15 baht), and arrived at the Laos side at 11 AM. There, I was pitched at until I gave in and let a guy handle it and my taxi ride to the consulate and my hotel for 400 baht. Was it extortion? Yup. Did I care? Not really. I just wanted to get to the consulate so I wouldn’t have to spend an extra night in Laos.
I got my Laos visa-on-arrival at 11:30 AM and we were off to the consulate. When we got there, I was too late. Time for more Farang extortion! Some of the Laos that work there somehow get numbers for the document submission process queue. These get you in the gate past the 12 o’clock deadline. 800 baht. I could have talked it down, but I’m lazy, and if you’ve ever met me, you know I’m horribly shy and it makes for awkward conversations. Ha.
A one hour queue in the gate got my documents in for a double entry tourist visa into Thailand. Tourist visas into Thailand are free for now, so if you plan of coming here, get one while you can. Normally they’re around 60 bucks, so it was nice to save a little money while I could.
I took the taxi in to the heart of Vientiane near the Morning Market (Talad Sao). I got to see some of the sites on the way. Vientiane is the capital of Laos, but it doesn’t feel like it. They’ve got a few palaces and government buildings here and there, but no skyscrapers and not a ton of traffic. Then again, the population of Vientiane is only about 1/20th that of Bangkok, so it doesn’t come of much surprise. Patuxay monument was pretty neat, and you’ll probably drive past it if you ever make the Thai-Laos visa trip yourself.
Anyways, Talad Sao and my hotel. Right. I stayed at the Lane Xang Princess Hotel. Nice, clean, modern, had wifi (horrible, but that’s the story almost anywhere in SE Asia), but no windows. Meh. The only Windows I need is in my notebook (Ba-dum-bum). The heat in the area was staggering, so after a few hours outside, I was drenched. The hot shower was nice, but it would sometimes give me a squirt of cold water which wasn’t always fun.
I got changed and checked out Talad Sao. It’s got one of the only indoor malls around, but nothing striked my interest, probably because everything there I could easily acquire in Thailand. I decided to take a Tuk-tuk to the riverfront. They’ve got a nice park there and a few restaurants. Check out Sticky Fingers, a funky looking backpackers spot with good food. I wish I read the review before I headed in that area because I would have loved to try the food. Instead, I had a Lao dish. Chicken and Ginger with some kind of sauce. I’m not sure what you would say in Lao as I can’t quite read Lao, but almost.
Anyways, I’m not much of a tourist. This was a business trip, so I headed back to the hotel to do work. For dinner, I went to this awesome place across the street from where I was staying. It was pretty empty at 8 pm when I got there, but so was the main road through the area. I forgot the name of it, but it was Le’ Terasiz or something that started with a T and ended with a Z. For a capital city, it sure is peaceful. Anyways, I had a tenderloin steak burger which was amazing. I followed that up with a chocolate cake and fruit sauce desert. It wasn’t as sweet as I hoped, but still good none the less. I drowned it all with a Lao Beer. (Lao beer is the selling point of nearly any restaurant in Laos. It is advertised everywhere!) It has a smooth taste that worked well with the burger. I haven’t drank anything else that tastes like it before, but then again I’m not a beer kinda guy. Give me some girly cocktail over it any day. I’d rather get drunk with something that tastes good. Anyways, I took a pizza back to the hotel for midnight snacking and hit the bed after some more work. All of this cost 595 B (around $20 USD)
You can go out at night in Laos. There are a few good clubs from what I read, like Romeo or DTech, but there’s some problems here and there and the main one being: No sex with Laos girls. It’s forbidden by law. If caught, you might go to jail or be fined $500 US. In fact, most hotels won’t even let you bring Laos guests back to your room. Keep that in mind if you ever come.
I slept a long time. No windows means no sun to wake me up. They actually called me at 10 am to get my comp. breakfast. I thought it was still 6 am. After a short wait, my taxi driver picked me up to go get my passport at the consulate. Rather than wait outside for the consulate to open their doors, I paid my driver 200 baht to get it for me while I ate at the restaurant across the street. Kao Pad Gai – Chicken fried rice – a staple for any foreigners diet here, was rather good. The chicken tasted very fresh. After about an hour of waiting, I got my passport with a double entry visa (double entry visa all the way yeahhhhhhh) good for 180 days in Thailand.
The driver took my to the bridge to Thailand where I paid up and set myself across the bridge after some checking of the visa and paper work. Rather than take the train or a bus all the way back to Bangkok, I opted to fly out. The closest airport from Friendship bridge is in Udon Thani. You can pick up a shared van ride for 200 baht from Friendship bridge to Udon Thani airport. Its about 60km away, so just a short 30 minute ride and you are there.
Not much to say about the airport and the subsequent flight to Bangkok. I tried to book my flight online with Thai Air while still in Laos, but their payment forwarding system hung up every time I tried to confirm the payment. I headed over to Nok Air which is a budget carrier, but offered the only other service back to BKK. While I waited for my flight, I checked out the airport and had some Kor Moo Yang at the restaurant just outside by the ATC tower. The girls there thought I was Harry Potter. I get it on a daily basis every time I go out. I get it so much, that I think I’m just going to feint being shy and ask them “How could you tell!?” with the worst British accent I can fork up.
The flight out was fine, and now I’m safe and sound in Bangkok. That was my visa run, and while it was exciting, I kind of feel like it was a waste of time and money. I would much rather be home making deals, talking with clients, and setting up campaigns. Ah well, that is the life of an expat in Thailand. This is the fastest and simplest way to get a Thai visa while living in Thailand so I didn’t have much of a choice. I’m home now, so back to work and makin’ them dolla’s rain!
Feel free to contact me if you need some advice about living in Thailand!