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Very Short Thailand Stay

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
    9th August, 2009
    Posts: 20

    Am considering flying Sydney to Bangkok (5/01/10) and staying a few days before getting a flight to Vientiane (9/01/10) as it seems better value than a straight trip to Vientiane.

    Is it stretching it to try and spend a couple of days (arrive evening on the 5th, fly early to Chiang Mai on the 6th and fly back late on the 7th)in Chiang Mai and return to Bangkok to spend a whole day on the 8th before flying out on the 9th? Best to do day trips around Bangkok and save the time and money otherwise spent on travel to look around Bangkok and surrounding areas? What do you think is the best use of time and funds? I have a pretty modest budget as I'm going to be spending a month in Laos and Vietnam after this and possibly do what I can of Cambodia (alone ... eep!)

    Thanks,
    A

    #1 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 12:24

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  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 136

    Hi AlyssaAnne,

    Seems a bit too tight to be able to include Bangkok and Chiang Mai in 3 days (6th-9th) so I'd recommend either one or the other but not both.

    BUT, is there a reason why you want or need to visit Bangkok and/or Chiang first before going to Vientiane ?
    And, since you mentioned that you also plan,
    "to be spending a month in Laos and Vietnam after this and possibly do what I can of Cambodia",
    Do you already have an itinerary planned for these 3 countries?

    The reason why I'm asking these Qs is that without a better idea as to what you're attempting to do, it's difficult to give you sound advice.

    For example, if you're going to be up in Chiang Mai, then it may be easier and cheaper to get to Laos overland via the Chiang Khong-Huay Xai border in the far north east of Thailand rather than to return to Bangkok to get to Vientiane. (And likewise, there are buses that run between Chiang Mai and Nong Khai which is across the Mekong River from Vientiane eliminating the need to return to Bangkok to get to Vientiane OR Lao Airlines also offers direct flights between Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang which continues on to Vientiane).

    Anyways, this may or may not help you, and perhaps you already know this, but if not, FYI, the ONLY budget flight that I know of to Vientiane is from Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia. And I think there are budget flights between Australia and KL, but am not sure if Sydney is one of the gateway cities. So, if you're able to use KL as your first hub, then you could fly into Vientiane rather inexpensively in contrast to your original plan to fly Bangkok to Vientiane (Lao Airlines or Thai Airways) OR Luang Prabang flights (Lao Airlines or Bangkok Airways). None of these are inexpensive.

    The reason why I'm bringing these options to your attention is that IF there is no need to visit Bangkok or Chiang Mai first, and if you can wait to visit these 2 Thai cities after visiting Laos, Vietnam, and/or Cambodia, there are budget flights with Thai Air Asia to Bangkok from Hanoi, Saigon, and Phnom Penh . In other words, you have more budget flight options to get back to Bangkok from these cities than from Laos. The added advantage too is that Air Asia also offers budget flights between Phnom Penh OR Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur, thereby giving you more options again to getting back to Australia.

    Anyways, just throwing out these options so that you know you've got more flexibility.

    #2 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 13:21

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
    9th August, 2009
    Posts: 20

    Thanks seagypsy,

    I should have mentioned before - I am travelling with others who are flying directly to Vientiane (AU$1100), but I thought it may be better value to get a budget flight to Bangkok (AU$660ish), have a look around for a few days by myself and then see if I could get aboard the same flight my companion for the Laos and Vietnam legs of the trip will be on (Thai Air: Syd - Bangkok - Vietniane)- hoping this is possible.

    Bangkok doesn't really appeal as much as Chiang Mai does, and I thought it might be a stretch, though the flight is apparantly only a bit over one hour or so and relatively cheap (more so than flying Syd - Chiang Mai and then getting to Bangkok). The only reason I'm not cutting Bangkok out entirely is because I've got to be there to get on the same flight to Vientiane (though I'm yet to book this or even see if it is 100% possible).

    As much as I'd love to see Chiang Mai perhaps staying in and around Bangkok for those few days is an easier alternative do you think?

    Thanks again for the wonderful help!

    #3 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 13:31

  • SBE

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    Yes, staying in and around Bangkok would be the better alternative I think. You could always do a side trip... eg Ayutthaya or Kanchanaburi if you don't want to spend the whole time in BKK.

    Udon Thani is about one hour from the Laos border, ie not far from Vientiane. Check out Air Asia if you want a cheaper flight alternative to get to Vientiane. (There are big ads for Air Asia on this site,just click on one).

    You could also get an overnight sleeper train to Nong Khai and cross the border from there.

    #4 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 15:12

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Hi,
    Oh, now I've got a better idea as to what your plans are. Well, it's still possible, if you've still got your heart set on visiting Chiang Mai , to connect with a flight from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International to Chiang Mai but you're going to have set aside at least a 3 hour window to connect with a budget carrier flight since you'll need to go through immigration, retrieve your luggage, and check-in with budget carrier for Chiang Mai (unless you decide to use Thai Airways to also fly up to Chiang Mai in which case they MIGHT forward/transfer your luggage to the flight). This would give you several days for Chiang Mai but no time for Bangkok.
    Then from Chiang Mai, I think it's Nok Air that offer budget flights to Udorn Thani which is a little over an hour away from Vientiane . This way you won't have to spend the extra time/cost to return to Bangkok to fly to Vientiane. Just meet your friends at Nam Phu Fountain in central Vientiane. To get from Udon Airport to Vientiane is a couple hours. But you'll have to lock yourself into a flight date since you'll need to book this flight well in advance to get the cheapest airfare with Nok Air. Or cheaper but more time consuming taking a full day, take the bus from Chiang Mai to Nong Khai (I think you have to transfer twice, once at Phitsanoluk and the second time at Udon Thani to get to Nong Khai to cross over to Laos/Vientiane). I would fly Nok Air to Udorn to save time and cost isn't bad with advance internet booking via their website.

    #5 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 15:16

  • SBE

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    Good job there's more than one brain on this site! Great suggestions from seagypsy if the logistics gel for a connecting flight to CM.

    #6 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 17:48

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Bangkok has excellent nightlife... well worth enjoying a few nights before moving on to Laos... which is short on nightlife.

    #7 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 18:34

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
    9th August, 2009
    Posts: 20

    Hi all,

    Thanks again! Though I would really love to see Chiang Mai, all that time lost travelling doesn't make the trip seem viable. If I don't just end up getting the flight with my friends straight from Sydney, I may get to Bangkok by myself, travel around Bangkok and immediate sort of surrounds - Kanchanaburi sounds interesting - and then try get the same Thai Air flight my friends from Bangkok to Laos (if that's possible).

    Have never travelling alone before (and have barely even travelled outside the country even with others) so this may be a bit of a test, but after the 2 weeks each in Laos and Vietnam if I want to go on to see Cambodia I'm going to have to do that alone. I've been told it's pretty easy to find other travellers, so I'm not too worried. Any other tips and suggestions are welcome.

    Thanks again,
    A

    #8 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 18:37

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
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    I'll be alone in Bangkok - would it feel strange going out at night by yourself?

    #9 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 18:39

  • jay66fr

    Joined Travelfish
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    The answer lies in your personality. Some people enjoy going out by themselves while others loathe it. I belong to the first category and I was alone this summer in Hoi An, HuĂȘ, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Bangkok and I just felt great!

    As a female travelling alone, you don't have much to fear in Bangkok, it's a very safe place as long as you don't do anything stupid (like anywhere else in the world including home) like following a stranger to a dark, remote place and so on.

    #10 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 20:30

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "I'll be alone in Bangkok - would it feel strange going out at night by yourself?"

    Bangkok is pretty safe, but if you want to be on the safer side of things, just follow the basic, common sense rules. Don't get so drunk you don't know what you're doing. Select a hotel reasonably close to where you are going out. Just be reasonably smart and no problems. I enjoy my time there when I go.

    #11 Posted: 15/8/2009 - 23:03

  • SBE

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    Ditto the others, Bangkok and SE Asia in general is very safe for a lone female traveller.

    Re your decision to tag along with your friends in #8 and your remark that you are on a modest budget in your OP... here are some options ranked in terms of speed.

    1. Thai Air flight direct to Vientiane $232 Aus

    2. Air Asia flight to Udon Thani $37

    plus bus to Vientiane, don't know how much that is, but it won't be expensive.

    3. Overnight train to Nong Khai $27

    That's the price for a 2nd class lower bunk ... an upper bunk would be even cheaper as it's slightly smaller. Cheap onward transport to Vientiane will be available when you get to Nong Khai. More info here.

    http://www.seat61.com/Laos.htm#Bangkok%20to%20Vientiane

    The train option also saves you a night's accommodation and you can book the ticket online if you want. (Details on that site, together with pictures of what the train looks like etc).

    I sense you're opting for the flight with your friends because you think the other two options are difficult and/or a bit dangerous. They aren't!

    Think about it anyway. :-)

    #12 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 03:03

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 136

    Good research SBE! If it was me, I'd choose either #2 or #3. But option #4, taking the overnight VIP bus from KSR brings her all the way to Nam Phu Fountain in Vientaine and also costs about U$27 with no additional cost to get into Vientiane. ;~))

    BTW, Alyssa, if you've got 2 weeks each for Laos and Vietnam, you could travel up north to Luang Prabang , spend some time in nearby areas too, and then fly Luang Prabang to Hanoi on Lao Airlines, then spend two weeks in northern Vietnam (going as far down as Hue and/or Hoi-An) before doubling back up to Hanoi for a cheap, Air Asia flight Hanoi to Bangkok. Then connect with cheap BKK to Phnom Penh Cambodia Air Asia flight or overland to Siem Reap.

    #13 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 03:28

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
    9th August, 2009
    Posts: 20

    Hi all,

    Glad to know it's safe and there are other options available! Ta again.

    Yeah, the main reason I considered getting aboard the Thai Air flight was so it was easier to meet up with friends. I'm just not sure of the logistics in contacting them or meeting up in Vientiane. We were worried that they would have to wait around for me to call the hotel or something like that and it would stall their plans and generally be a hassle.

    As far as the itinerary goes for Laos and Vietnam that's left more open (my friend's Laotian father will take us sightseeing for a bit I think and then Vietnam definitely includes Ha long Bay which seems to be a nightmare to wade through the scams to organise), so I'm not sure where I will finish Vietnam off. Would love to get a cheap flight into Cambodia (will have a look round the site for some sample itineraries and must-sees) though!

    Thanks again,
    A

    #14 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 06:36

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
    9th August, 2009
    Posts: 20

    Also, where would I find more info on overnight trains or buses into Vientiane. That "option 4" - taking the overnight VIP bus from KSR all the way to Nam Phu Fountain in Vientaine sounds like it especially deserves some further thought, as do the other alternatives if the logistics of meeting up in Vietiane don't cause too much hassle.

    I'm not a drinker so I should be safe going out. Would love to see if I could find some live music perhaps, though I won't be in Bangkok on a weekend night.

    Ta,
    A

    #15 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 06:50

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Option #4 is the Sabaidee Bus Company that leaves from the Khao San Road area around 8PM and arrives anywheres between 5-6AM in Nong Khai for a short 'rice' breakfast and then continues on to Friendship Bridge when the border opens around 7AM. It allows time for travelers getting their Lao visa upon arrival and then continues on into central Vientiane, dropping off visitors near Nam Phu Fountain. I've taken it over half a dozen times and it's a VIP bus with a bathroom cubicle below. If you've got a backpack or luggage, LOCK it to be safe since all passengers usually sit above with reclining seats. Also keep valuables in a daypack with you on your lap or near you when you sleep. Money/passport should be in a money belt or neck pouch. Should run somewheres about 750-800bahts and many travel agencies in the KSR area sell it so SHOP around. You usually meet them at their travel agency at 7pm and they walk you over to where the bus departs in a parking lot. Used mainly by backpackers and even some Thai travelers to Laos. It stops once between 12-1AM for a full bathroom break and soup noodles or prepared rice dishes. It's convenient in that unlike the train, it gets in really early at Nong Khai and then gets you into Nam Phu area by 9AM. Oh, and I recommend getting seats towards the middle of thenbus since the front seats have huge windows in front and so the lights from on-coming traffic at night (usually mostly a divided highway) doesnt' disturb your snoozing.

    BTW Alyssa, I was informed that the budget Nok Air flight between Chiang Mai and Udon Thani was cancelled last year so scratch that option. Sorry. So, if you decide to visit Chiang Mai, then you'll have to check with local travel agencies since I've seen them advertise this overnight bus to Nong Khai. Again, you'll have to 'shop' the ticket since the price varies according to how much the travel agency wants to tack on as their profit for their service of writing up the ticket voucher.

    #16 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 11:24

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
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    PS--the Nam Phu Fountain is a convenient location to meet people since it's central and there's Scandanavian Bakery with outside seating fronting the square so that you can see people in th plaza. There's also an air-conditioned area for the bakery but much harder to view the square/fountain/plaza. But JOMA's Bakery closeby is a regular morning stop for me. Gotta try their decadent cinnamon rolls.

    #17 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 11:31

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    I've never done it, but everything I have heard about KSR and taking a bus from there is negative.

    If you want a place where there's just a ton of nightlife, Bangkok is good. Very good.

    If you want to experience Thai nightlife in a more "normal" setting, I suggest you hope that night train to Nong Khai and go out there. You will find a live band without a problem and you will be socializing mostly with Thais... vice the backpacker or expat crowd (both of which have their own particular warts).

    #18 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 12:10

  • SBE

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    "I've never done it, but everything I have heard about KSR and taking a bus from there is negative. "

    ... well seagypsy's experience (over half a dozen trips on this route) doesn't sound too negative to me!

    Sounds like a very easy way to get to Vientiane ! It's quicker than the train too but personally I'd still opt for the latter... mainly because it's a long journey and I find it easier to sleep on the trains than the buses, even luxury buses.

    If you do plump for the train, I'd recommend second class (if you're in 1st class you don't know who the other occupant of the compartment will be). Staff come and make up the beds with clean linen at some point in the evening and you can also order and be served (slightly pricey) meals and drinks on board if you like.... or bring your own food and drink.

    Re meeting up in Vientiane... TF has accommodation reviews of GHs in Vientiane so why not just all book a night at the same GH and arrange to meet up there?

    #19 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 15:24

  • seagypsy

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    madmax--the Sabaidee Bus isn't one of those Super 24 seater VIPs but it gets the job done. And it's nothing like those 'scam buses' that head east to the Thai-Cambodian border. Much more straight forward. Only thing that concerns me is that the driver/s sometimes drives a bit too fast getting out of or getting into Bangkok when it's unnecessary since it's easier for them to make good time on less travelled main roads once out of BKK. Could be that they're hyped up on those energy drinks, M-15s.

    As SBE points out, the Nong Khai train is sooo much more comfortable, especially for a good sleep, but I like to get in early at both Nong Khai (no crowds in the early morning crossing the border) and Bangkok for which the bus gets in before 6AM. And good idea by SBE to load up on snacks and beverages for the train since meals are pricey. My problem with the train is that it's frequently an hour or so late. I even missed a flight once from Vientiane to Luang Prabang because it was so late. And the train is so long which means that more people headed to the border at the same time.

    #20 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 19:20

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "... well seagypsy's experience (over half a dozen trips on this route) doesn't sound too negative to me!"

    SBE, when analyzing statistics six is what one would call a small sample size. There are enough observations in the negative right here on travelfish that would make me hesitant (if for some reason I wanted to travel from there vice Mo Chit - and I can't think of a reason I would.

    Agree with you 100% on the train. Good way to go.

    #21 Posted: 16/8/2009 - 23:10

  • SBE

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    "SBE, when analyzing statistics six is what one would call a small sample size. There are enough observations in the negative right here on travelfish that would make me hesitant"

    I don't stay on KSR, have never taken a bus from there, and I'd never heard of this particular direct bus before. Perhaps you'd care to link some negative observations about the Sabaidee bus to Vientiane because I haven't seen ANY.

    Or are you just talking about KSR buses in general and you just extrapolated to include the one seagypsy has used many times and PERSONALLY recommends? You know better even though you've never actually used that bus? OK show us the all bad reviews then... (over)six times is such a small sample size after all...

    Just because KSR has a well documented bad reputation for scam buses doesn't mean that ALL the companies there should be tarred with the same brush. There seems to be mainly positive feedback about the Lomphraya bus on this forum and on TT for example. That operates from KSR.

    If there ARE reliable bus companies on KSR, then I think it's very useful for travellers to know which ones they are so they can opt to use them rather than the scam ones.

    Seagypsy seems to be a very experienced traveller and has travelled many times to Vientiane from BKK and used both the train and the bus... so unlike you (or I) he/she is in a position to compare them. As far as I can tell, the feedback given is spot on... very impartial pros and cons of each option and I for one value the opinions of someone with this kind of personal experience.

    #22 Posted: 17/8/2009 - 05:16

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
    9th August, 2009
    Posts: 20

    Hi guys,

    Aksed my (Thai) uncle who recommended I take the train as it is comfortable and he thinks I'd like to see the locals selling snakes, haha. So hopefully it doesn't wipe out too much of the morning trying to get into Vientiane. The bus sounds so convenient, but again uncle thinks the train has nicer scenery (though I'm not sure how much of this I will see if I'm snoozing).

    I think I'll just book the same hotel and meet them there I suppose.

    Now to actually book flights and everything! Still not sure where I'll finish up and fly out of though. Any existing threads or tips for travelling Cambodia alone? As I'm seeing laos and Vietnam I'd like to do something a bit different, so as not to get 'temple fatigue', haha.

    Thanks again, brains trust!

    #23 Posted: 17/8/2009 - 06:48

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
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    Hi Alyssa,
    Don't worry, you'll catch the countryside view in the morning even before Khon Khaen, once the train staff puts up the sleep bunks though sometimes it takes a while. As I stated earlier, you'll get a much better sleep since you'll get to lay out in your own snug bed bunk (the lower bunk is just a little more but easier to get in and out so those usually get sold out earlier). Keep your valuables near your head/pillow on the window side instead of the aisle side for security. Also lock your backpack or suitcase and keep them as close to your bunk as possible. And do load up on snacks or beverages as SBE suggested earlier. And if I remember correctly at the end of each train are 2 bathrooms, one is squat and one is western style


    Again, you've got the option of flying back from Cambodia to Bangkok inexpensively on Air Asia but I seem to recall that Air Asia also offers the route Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur which would be convenient for their Air Asia X flights to Australia.

    If you haven't visited Angkor at Siem Reap, then I highly recommend it because to me, it's one of the 7 man-made wonders of the world. It truly is amazing and with their new policy of giving up to a week to use a 3 day pass, you don't need to go on 3 consecutive days.

    Also you can read previous postings on Cambodia itineraries in its own forum.

    SBE--thanks.

    MADMAC--I'm not saying the Sabaidee Bus is for everyone. It appeals to the backpacker segment who wants an inexpensive means as well as the convenience of getting all the way into central Vientiane . The additional plus is that for those who want to get into Vientiane early to connect with a VIP bus to Luang Prabang or the early buses to Vang Vieng, then it meets those needs too whereas the train arrives too late to catch the early morning VIP buses.
    Overall, for less expense and comfort, I agree with you that the sleeper train is far more comfortable to stretch out, walk about, and a far better sleeping arrangement. It's just that for me, I prefer to get in earlier into Vientiane.
    And of course if money is no object, then flying is even easier and faster.
    The main complaint I've heard about the Sabaidee Bus Co. is that some have felt they were overcharged but that's because a travel agency or guesthouse has tacked on a significant commission but that is not on the bus company's part since their price is set. That's why I'm emphasized that it's important to 'shop' the ticket from multiple sources in KSR and Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and even in Luang Prabang (yes, it can even be bought in LP in advance to get back from Vientiane to Bangkok)
    But in the end, it's each to her/his choice, so no worries. I just want it out there as an option for travelers who might not even know it's available. Cheers.

    #24 Posted: 17/8/2009 - 08:18

  • BruceMoon

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    Alyssa

    You've asked about Bangkok & Chiang Mai, all in relation to your intention to meet people in Laos ( Vientiane ). It appears to me that you are filling in time because you are focussing on a Sydney - Bangkok flight.

    From Sydney, you are not restricted to Bangkok as a gateway to Vientiane. An alternative is AirAsia from Melbourne or Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur then to Vientiane. Australia to KL = A$350 approx, and KL to Vientiane = A$80 approx. Of course, plus the A$60 domestic connector.

    Cheers

    #25 Posted: 17/8/2009 - 14:41

  • SBE

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    Good point Bruce. I was going to suggest a cheap flight from Australia and a connecting flight to Vientiane too but Air Asia doesn't fly from Sydney and I had no idea how expensive domestic flights (+ maybe one night in a hotel in transit) would be in Australia.

    Also there isn't a KL-Vientiane flight every day and it leaves at 8am... so that probably means an overnight stop in KL too. There is a new (relatively) cheap place to stay at the airport now though.... the Tune Hotel.

    Logistics logistics ... as always! ;-)

    #26 Posted: 17/8/2009 - 15:23

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "Just because KSR has a well documented bad reputation for scam buses doesn't mean that ALL the companies there should be tarred with the same brush. There seems to be mainly positive feedback about the Lomphraya bus on this forum and on TT for example. That operates from KSR."

    SBE
    Again, I am not speaking from experience. But at least some of the commentary concerning the theft was that it was originating from other tourists. Since KSR is catering to that market, I would assume (could be false - but I don't think so) that said bus will be populated by tourists. Hence I wouldn't have tarred the bus company, per se, but rather the location of origin (KSR).

    I emphasize this is just my opinion based on what I've read. Not on experience, as I would not have a need to travel or visit KSR.

    #27 Posted: 17/8/2009 - 15:46

  • SBE

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    "But at least some of the commentary concerning the theft was that it was originating from other tourists. Since KSR is catering to that market, I would assume (could be false - but I don't think so) that said bus will be populated by tourists. Hence I wouldn't have tarred the bus company, per se, but rather the location of origin (KSR)."



    If that's the case how come Thai trains don't have as bad a reputation? Second class sleeper compartments weren't exactly devoid of tourists last time I looked and I bet you anything that a fair number of those tourists stay on KSR when they are in BKK!

    There are also many foreign tourists on buses leaving govt bus stations....maybe not on buses going to Mukdahan mind you.

    #28 Posted: 17/8/2009 - 17:21

  • AlyssaAnne

    Joined Travelfish
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    Hey,

    BruceMoon, "It appears to me that you are filling in time because you are focussing on a Sydney - Bangkok flight" - I'm more concerned with seeing more for the $. Rather than get the same flight as my friends Syd - Bangkok (with 8 hr stop) - Vientiane , I'd rather see another city for the same or reduced costs. But there seem to be far more options on getting to Vientiane than I ever anticipated!

    I'd love to be able to stay in Bangkok, see the city and perhaps do a day trip or overnight trip to surrounds (given up Chiang Mai for another time) and then catch an overnight sleeper to Nong Khai and cross over to Vientiane. The only real problems people (not on this forum) have raised are:

    1) How to meet up in Vientiane without inconveniencing the other travellers, as they will be picked up by relatives and may be staying with family rather than at a hotel, and

    2) Safety - being a very white, green, young woman and perhaps looking like an "easy target". I'm not sure how worried I have to be as everyone on here seems to have confidence in the safety of travellers in SE Asia.

    These are the main concerns now. Hopefully it works out!

    Ta,
    A

    #29 Posted: 18/8/2009 - 14:03

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    "If that's the case how come Thai trains don't have as bad a reputation? Second class sleeper compartments weren't exactly devoid of tourists last time I looked and I bet you anything that a fair number of those tourists stay on KSR when they are in BKK!"

    I can't answer that. I can only reiterate what I have read here vice buses leaving from KSR and the potential from theft from other tourists.

    "There are also many foreign tourists on buses leaving govt bus stations....maybe not on buses going to Mukdahan mind you."

    Not many going out of Mo Chit. I hardly ever see any at all. And you're right, almost none on the buses to Muk. Invariably I am the only white guy on the bus. This is not a tourist destination.

    #30 Posted: 18/8/2009 - 16:20

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
    5th February, 2009
    Posts: 136

    Alyssa,

    1) How to meet up in Vientiane without inconveniencing the other travellers, as they will be picked up by relatives and may be staying with family rather than at a hotel, and

    Do you have a cell-/mobile-phone? If so, then bring it with you and if you get a Thai sim card from your uncle (or buy one in Bangkok--MBK shopping or Panthip Plaza) you can use it along the Mekong riverside even in Vientiane. That way you can keep in touch by phone, let them know you've arrived if you can't want to meet them at some location.

    2) Safety - being a very white, green, young woman and perhaps looking like an "easy target". I'm not sure how worried I have to be as everyone on here seems to have confidence in the safety of travellers in SE Asia.

    First off, don't accept any drinks or food from strangers on the train. Bring your own. And upon arrival in Nong Khai, don't trust the touts offering to help you get a Lao visa when you get off the overnight sleeper train. There'll be lots of tuk tuk drivers encouraging you to join a shared tuk tuk to the border a couple kilometers so join up with other travelers or locals headed to Friendship Bridge. Should only cost about U$1=~34 bahts. Or you could also walk the distance since it really isn't that far but if you've got a heavy backpack, well then . . .
    When the tuk tuk drops you off in front of Thai immigration, don't forget that you have to have or fill out a Thai exit form. Sometimes the officials on the Thai side are quite stingy about providing the forms so you'll have to ask around and if you don't see one, then politely go to the passport control window (where everyone is lining up to get their exit stamp) and request the visa for. It's OK to jump the line to get to the window just to get the form. Many, including the passport official knows you're just getting the form. Also try and get an extra one if you're planning to return to Thailand.
    (Likewise on the Lao side when seeking the Lao entry/exit form. Frequently no forms are available so you have to politely say excuse me to the immigration official at the window for the form.)

    After clearing Thai exit formalities, you have to pay about 20 bahts to take the shuttle accross the bridge to Lao immigration. The shuttle will drop you off next to the immigration building and look for the two windows for the visa upon arrival procedure. You'll need to fill out several forms: the visa appication and also the entry/exit form. You should pay first for the visa in U$ currency and the cost for Ozzies is U$30, I think, plus a possible extra U$1 for weekends and night-time arrivals. Don't pay in Thai baht because it'll cost you 1,500bahts which is more.

    #31 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 01:00

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
    Joined Travelfish
    21st April, 2006
    Location Canada
    Posts: 1424
    Total reviews: 15
    Places visited:
    At least 113

    Hi Alyssa,

    Like your uncle, and Bruce Moon, I would also recommend going by train to Nong Khai and then crossing into Laos from there. 2nd. Class sleepers are inexpensive, pretty comfy, and safe. You can drop the window, get up and walk around, visit the always entertaining dining car that's usually occupied by drunken police officers and dancing train employees. Doubt you'll see people going around selling snakes, but it's possible, especially in 2nd. or 3rd. Class when vendors get on at one stop and hop off at the next.

    As for the scenery, you won't see much at first, though the train trip out of Bangkok is always interesting, day or night. The sun drops at around 6:00, though, so the scenery won't really start until you get up around Khon Kaen at around 5:30 am. Then you'll get the fiery sunrise over rural Issan ... very nice.

    Nong Khai is also a nice, riverside town that is worth an evening if you can spare it. Otherwise, you can cross over into Laos over the new train bridge, or you can take public transport across. Lots of info on this site for that.

    Have fun, whatever you do.

    #32 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 01:18

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6246
    Total reviews: 10

    Seagypsy
    Not to be pedantic here, but the plural of baht is baht. I.e. "it will cost you 1,500 baht for short time."

    #33 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 01:41

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
    5th February, 2009
    Posts: 136

    I would not wait around the couple hours it takes to cross the bridge by train into Thanaleng. It's faster just to do the border crossing yourself by getting off at Nong Khai Station. Otherwise, you're still waiting around at the train station when you could already be into central Vientiane by crossing on your own.

    #34 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 01:43

  • seagypsy

    Joined Travelfish
    5th February, 2009
    Posts: 136

    madmac--You say baht; I say bahts. A hold over from my english grammer.

    #35 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 01:46

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6246
    Total reviews: 10

    gypsy
    I think you're the only one.

    #36 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 02:04

  • BruceMoon

    Click here to learn more about BruceMoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Alyssa

    Jetstar also fly direct Syd - BKK (but in January, its expensive).

    As for YWF (young white female) and relative safety versus confidence, only you can know.

    At the end of the day, it's really about you and your own self confidence. If you believe you can do it alone, then you will certainly be following zillions of other self confident women who have been charting their own course while touring SE Asia.

    Aside from the obvious questions, I've spoken to many YWF travellers and they all say that there is a 'sisterhood' of sorts in the region. That is, once one sole YWF traveller meets an/other, meets an/other, etc., they all look out for each other (obviously to varying degrees).

    Personally, if you have confidence in yourself to travel alone, then you'll have researched the procedures you need to deal with potential problems (like not partying hard until 1am and walking home alone, etc., etc.).

    That said...

    As for your friends being in Vientiane, one possibility is for you to meet them at the airport (ie you get there first).

    Cheers

    #37 Posted: 19/8/2009 - 06:22

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