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Operation Chiang Mai

  • CrankyCarrot

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    Joined Travelfish
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    To get right to it, I want to see Chiang's Mai and Rai, and possibly get down to Pattaya from there to round out my knowledge of Northern Thailand.

    My already extended tourist visa is up by next Monday and I'm in Phuket . As well as seeing the North of TL, I wouldn't mind dipping my toe into somewhere else for a few weeks like Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam. Even though it's close, I've had more than my fill of Malaysia, and I hear they won't grant a new tourist visa in Penang if you have a 30 day extension like me anyway. I will do everything in my power to avoid ever going to KL again as it and I do not gel well.

    Since Chiang Mai is up North and there's a Thai embassy in Vientiane , Laos, which is close to the Northern Thai border, it seems logical to go there for a bit, get a fresh visa stamp, then head back across by land to CM -- or fly back if I'm refused a tourist visa and just get an automatic 30 day exemption.

    Problem is I can't find any LCC (or any airline for that matter) that flies straight from Phuket to Vientiane, so it looks like I might have to go to Bangkok first, probably by VIP bus overnight, then either get a Laos visa and fly to the border to cross by land, or just fly straight there from BKK.

    I'm open to suggestions - there's no Laos embassy in Phuket that I'm aware of, and visa on arrival is only available if you fly in to Luang Prabang or Vientiane. It's not too late to rule out a side trip to Cambodia I suppose, but I do really want to end up in Chiang Mai for a bit relatively soon and it looks like Vientiane is the closest city with a Thai embassy.

    Your thoughts, travelfishies?

    #1 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 13:06

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  • tinoh

    Joined Travelfish
    13th February, 2010
    Posts: 40

    I suggest to make your way to bangkok, than take either the train to Laos or take a LCC to Udon Thani and than make your way across the border to Vietiane. You can get a Laos visa at the border and than go to the embassy to get a thai visa. Lots of people do a visa run to Vientiane . After Vientiane I would at least go to Luang Prabang and than maybe do the 2 day boat trip back to Thailand. From the border you can easily get on the bus to Chang Rai and from there a bus to Chang Mai.

    #2 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 13:56

  • CrankyCarrot

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    That sounds good, except I thought you could only get visas on arrival at Vientiane or Luang Prabang airports. If that were true I'd have to go to Bangkok anyway to visit the Laos embassy - and I might as well fly if I'm there.

    Your plan for coming back via Chiang Rai sounds good to me.

    Looks like flying to Laos from Phuket is a real pain - based on what I see from Sky Scanner, you have to go via KL, and then change for VTE. I don't like going backwards to go forwards, plus it's not particularly cheap. Cheapest flight is about $257aud.

    Forget that.

    It looks like getting anywhere from Phuket on the cheap will involve hopping an overnight VIP bus from Patong or Phuket Town. It's about 600-1000 baht, and it will deposit me somewhere near a bearable guesthouse in my price range - 500 baht per day. I will definitely want to shower off the funk of a 12 hour bus ride... with hot water. Then maybe hole up in BKK for a couple of nights before flying out.

    Gotta move soon. Visa expires in 6 days. Tick tock...

    #3 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 15:22

  • tinoh

    Joined Travelfish
    13th February, 2010
    Posts: 40

    Quoting from the TF Laos section:
    Visa on arrival is reliably available at most overland crossings between Thailand and Laos, including the Huay Xai, Vientiane , Savannakhet, Tha Khaek and Chong Mek entry points. It is also available at both Vientiane and Luang Prabang airports (US$37, cash only, one passport photo). It is available at the Boten crossing with China and at the main international crossings with Vietnam.

    #4 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 16:00

  • SBE

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    It looks like getting anywhere from Phuket on the cheap will involve hopping an overnight VIP bus from Patong or Phuket Town. It's about 600-1000 baht, and it will deposit me somewhere near a bearable guesthouse in my price range - 500 baht per day.

    Normally overnight VIP buses from the south deposit people in the Southern Bus terminal at from whence you can hop on a 511 A/C bus that goes past Democracy Monument (for Khao San Road) and continues on to Sukhumvit Road. The 511 bus fare into town is approximately 20B depending on where you get off and the journey is very quick because there's very little traffic that early in the morning (Every time I've taken overnight buses from the south they've arrived at the bus terminal well before dawn).

    Just mentioning this because you seem to be on a tight budget and may want to economize on a 200-300B taxi fare into central BKK.

    Also it might be an idea to compare the advantages and disadvantages of KSR tourist buses and the VIP buses that Thai people use. The latter leave mostly from Phuket town but, on the other hand never seem to have problems with stuff getting nicked from luggage in the hold.

    Have you considered getting an overnight sleeper train to Nong Khai? Saves having to go to the airport in BKK , saves on the cost of one night's accommodation and although Thai trains are quite ancient and rather slow, they are not that uncomfortable....people come around offering cold beer and food etc and you can get up stretch your legs too if you want. 2nd class lower bunk is a bit roomier than the upper bunks. Toilets are squat ones and do not have hot water showers but you are a fit young strapping lad ....well that's how I imagine you anyway...with spiky orange hair and a bit deaf as well. ;-) Minor comfort details like that should not bother you if they don't bother a wizened old lady like me who's probably old enough to be your mother!

    I'm not sure if I'll be back next year as 6-12 months living in Guinea Conakry seems to be a distinct possibility since yesterday and I haven't been back to Africa for ages, but if I am back in the SE Asia I'm gonna find you and drag you off on some proper boats, planes and bus training so you can commence traveling!

    #5 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 17:55

  • CrankyCarrot

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    "Just mentioning this because you seem to be on a tight budget and may want to economize on a 200-300B taxi fare into central BKK."

    You got that right. You should have seen some of the nonsense I endured on that last run to KL in the name of saving a few ringits.

    #6 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 21:10

  • CrankyCarrot

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    @SBE - Those early buses for 20B are usually running when the VIP bus arrives? I think they start at 6am right?

    @Tinoh - right you are. I see now there are some land crossings where you can get the visa, but not all. Cool bananas.

    @SBE again - I considered crossing from Nong Khai, but I thought I'd have to fly there. I reckon the way to go would be to get a VIP to BKK, maybe rest there for a night or two and stay near the station that has the overnight train to Nong Khai. I'd opt for the VIP because I've used it a couple of times before and know what to expect Vs the other buses which I've only heard bad things about -- like rampant theft.

    I've been meaning to try out the sleeper carriages, and I love trains. With planes I'm always paranoid every time there's a bit of turbulence that it's going to plummet into the ocean, and I hate being helpless. At least I can jump out of a train! Buses here are pretty frightening affairs too since they boom along the highway about as fast as the planes during take off, though it's probably more scary for the motorbikes out in front.

    Now let's see - can I do all that by next Monday? Hmmm... I briefly considered hopping a plane to Langkawi (from Pkt) to buy some time since it's so close, but according to a travel agent I spoke to this afternoon, you can't get a plane from here to there. Might double check that on Skyscanner or something.

    #7 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 21:27

  • CrankyCarrot

    Click here to learn more about CrankyCarrot
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    PS Only the colour-blind accuse me of being a ranga.

    please note - a carrot's "hair" is green - it's the skin that's orange. And after spending the best part of nine months lying on Phuketian beaches, you'd be pretty orange too!

    #8 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 21:52

  • SBE

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    The 511 buses definitely run earlier than 6am. There's always been one waiting to go whenever I've arrived at the southern bus terminal. I think I arrived there at 5am last time... never had to wait more than a few minutes for it to depart. Turn left and cross the minibus parking area when you get out of your bus from Phuket. (Or just ask someone if you get lost).


    Only the colour-blind accuse me of being a ranga.


    Sorry, wasn't thinking ...let me see, cranky carrot..... hmm

    Aha, got it! You've got a firm orange body and green spiky hair except when you're wilting a bit. Sorry my mistake, rest assured that I have now revised my mental image of you and trust it's now accurate.

    :-)

    #9 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 22:05

  • SBE

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    I see my revised hypothesis was right .... you posted the answer while I was replying.

    Yesss!

    #10 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 22:08

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  • SBE

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    PS. I was on a train coming into Hualumphong once and noticed we'd stopped a bit before we should have done. A guard came and told us we'd have to walk the last bit along the railway track.

    It was only when I got out muttering curses that I noticed we'd derailed and the front carriages were lying on their sides.

    But it only happened to me once so the chances of you having anything exciting like that happening to you while you're going to Nong Khai are very very slim indeed. :-)

    #11 Posted: 10/5/2011 - 22:44

  • CrankyCarrot

    Click here to learn more about CrankyCarrot
    Joined Travelfish
    24th March, 2010
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 662

    I like slim chances of catastrophic events. I like them even better anorexic.

    A derailed carriage at the speed Thai trains go at would only fling me out of bed at worst I'd say, but I'll pick a carriage somewhere in the middle just to be on the safe side.

    Reading all the warnings on my gov't's website (Aussie) and there sure is a lot of worry about travel in SE Asia. According to this thing I ran the risk of a beheading going through Sadao in Songkhla the last 2 times I visa ran to Malaysia, and I should "strongly reconsider" my plans to travel anywhere Indonesia. Even placid little Ubud?


    Hmmm... according to this site I can't go anywhere except Australia without fretting. And even then there's all that skin cancer to worry about. Damn - I never should have opened my front door!

    #12 Posted: 11/5/2011 - 01:07

  • guava_girl

    Joined Travelfish
    21st October, 2010
    Posts: 252

    FYI, you can get a visa at the Vientienne border when coming via the friendship bridge. Can't remember how much it is but it is definately possible.

    As well, Penang will give you a new 60-day tourist visa if you only have one 30 day extension. It is when you have 3 that they won't. Well that was the last I heard anyways. But things seem to change daily regarding visas.

    #13 Posted: 11/5/2011 - 08:38

  • CrankyCarrot

    Click here to learn more about CrankyCarrot
    Joined Travelfish
    24th March, 2010
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 662

    @GGal - that's good news about Penang granting tourist visas. I just checked with Jim, a colourful character who runs kids over to the embassy every day from Chulia street, and he seemed to say one extension probably wouldn't be an issue.

    Also, I think it's about $25-$30 for visas at airports or land borders in Laos. It's just that the prices can be a little "flexible" at the border, depending on who's on duty at the time.

    #14 Posted: 11/5/2011 - 09:35

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