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The Guardian reports that Laos will be connected to the outside world for the first time by rail when a link to Thailand across the Mekong River opens next week.
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand will officially open the line on Thursday 5 March, and the first train to carry passengers in and out of Laos will start running on Friday morning, according to the Thai state railway.
The people of Laos have been waiting a long time for this moment: The US$6m project first broke ground in 2007, and a year after the line was originally due to open.
The first train will leave Nong Khai in Thailand at 9.10am and arrive at its destination, Tha na Lang, at approximately 9.25am. We are talking about a 3.5km stretch of track -– one that runs over the Mekong, via the Friendship Bridge and connects the existing Thai line to Tha na Lang, its only stop just outside the Laos capital of Vientiane .
At the moment, Tha Na Lang is just a bright, shiny railway station; there is not much in the way of a village or town or anything else here. Undoubtedly, with the advent of the railway age, this will change as Tha Na Lang will become the preferred jump-off point for visitors to Vientiane, roughly 20 miles up the Mekong – travellers will likely take a tuk-tuk or bus for the short hop into the Laos capital.
Nong Khai, on the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge, is a different matter being a well-established travellers' hub with great guesthouses, a handsome Mekong-side promenade and a run of French colonial architecture.
There are also plans to extend the line into Vientiane but, given the difficulties in opening this tiny stretch of track, that could be many years off yet. What is certain is that travellers will for the first time be able to take the train from the Thai capital to the Laos capital – almost.
It should be interesting to see how popular the train becomes given it doesn't actually go all the way into Vientiane. What were the planners thinking?!
#1 travelfishnews has been a member since 23/2/2009. Posts: 83
"It should be interesting to see how popular the train becomes given it doesn't actually go all the way into Vientiane. What were the planners thinking?!"
I couldn't have put it better myself. I just read this little tidbit of info about the new "direct train" to Laos on seat61 ...
"You can't buy through tickets from Bangkok to Thanaleng, at least not yet, you have to buy a ticket from Bangkok to Nong Khai , then buy the onward ticket from Nong Khai to Thanaleng at the station when you get to Nong Khai ... There's plenty of time to do this, as the train has a 2 hour layover in Nong Khai before the through cars head of to Thanaleng."
There's A TWO HOUR LAYOVER in Nong Khai before continuing on to Thanaleng?? What is the point of using this new train at all then?
What are the planners thinking of indeed!
Apparently there's a two hour lay over in the other direction too and
buying a train ticket from the Thanaleng station on the Lao side sounds rather an ordeal according to this trip report back in March!
"As of March 26, 2009, no travel agents in Laos could sell tickets on the newly opened segment connecting these two countries. Most didn’t know it was open. Those who know about it said they didn't have a commission structure negotiated yet so couldn't sell the tickets.
So to take the train to Bangkok starting in Thanaleng you must buy tickets yourself in person at the Thanaleng station. The best we could arrange was 80,000 kip for a round trip tuk-tuk to and from the Thanaleng station to buy tickets (about $9.50 for 40+ km roundtrip). Thanaleng station opened on 5 March 2009 but services and procedures are still being developed. They had no equipment or capability to print tickets at this office yet but hope to around May 2009. You must buy your tickets in Thai Baht only, in cash in advance at the Thanaleng station. THERE IS NO CURRENCY EXCHANGE OR ATM THERE. You will not get a printed receipt, as this can't be done either. They will have your tickets printed in Nong Khai and sent on the next day’s train to be held at the ticket window for you in Thanaleng so plan ahead at least 1-2 days."
Is it still like this now?
I don't think the Nong Khai to Thanaleng train crossing will ever attract many tourist passengers just to cross the river. It really makes no sense and this results more as a function of international border crossings by train. Why wait two hours to cross on a train when you can get off at Nong Khai station and do the border x-ing yourself instead of staying on the train.
The train is necessary as a cargo transport but not vital for travelers. For most tourists headed to Vientiane or beyond, getting off at Nong Khai will always be faster. As it is, the train has a hard enough time getting to Nong Khai from Hualamphong Station/Bangkok on schedule and is all to frequently late by an hour or more.
#5 seagypsy has been a member since 5/2/2009. Posts: 136
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