I was in Si Chiangmai and was told by two locals there that foreigners are allowed to cross the river at Ban Mo, which is a little village just on the west side of the town. We rode to the place where the ferry crossing is and, sure enough, it is possible. At least, they told us we could cross there if we wanted to. We didn't have our visas yet, though.
If you go, you MUST have a visa before you arrive in Laos.
The ferry only goes twice each week, both days at the same time of day (6:00 pm ... so, in the dark!) Sunday and Tuesdays.
This would be a great place to cross if you are going to Vientiane. It would save you having to go into Nong Khai and then doubling back along the river to get to Vientiane.
It's kind of a backwater way of getting into the country, and the timing is highly limited, but it would be much more interesting than going over the bridge.
Thanks for the report Tilapia, I'll get that added into the Visa FAQ. Odd running times for the ferry - is there a special market on or something on the Sundays and Tuesdays?
Somtam, I couldn't tell you that. I really don't know why they run so infrequently, and so late. But then, I didn't ask.
While chatting with a few people in Si Chiangmai I told them that I was going to cross into Laos at Nong Khai . They asked why I didn't just go across at Ban Mo. Of course, it was because I had never even heard of Ban Mo and, anyway, I didn't have my Laos visa at the time and wasn't going to be able to get one without going back to Nong Khai (I was heading west.)
Ban Mo is a nice little village on the riverbank just a few minutes from Si Chiangmai. There's nowhere to stay there, but there's no reason to, really.
I just thought that it would be a great place to cross if one is heading towards Nong Khai from the west.
On the other side of the river is the very western edge of Vientiane.