8. Riding The Rails: Vang Vieng - Nong Khai
The title is a bit of a misnomer as this is the only day without any train rides, sorry about that!
I’m an early riser and continued being that in Vang Vieng, so left my room before 6 AM to go for a solo walk.
On purpose, I went southwards in the hope of seeing a less touristy area of the town.
One of the places I stopped was at Vat Si Sou Mang, a temple with some fierce-looking nagas and a friendly monk.
A pleasant surprise was a special barber shop although I had some doubts whether Mick Jagger & Co ever visited it…
Back at the guesthouse, I teamed up with Tim & Ray for breakfast time, and nearby we found an excellent place.
Over baguettes, we decided on checking out later and for variety take a bus to Vientiane instead of the train.
The next step was renting bicycles and hitting the road, to see a bit more of the environment.
But the first stop was at the bus station to get tickets for a shared minivan which turned out to cost a bit more than 00.000 kip!
No buses apparently were operating anymore, so we settled for a shared minivan instead…
As blogged before (*) several times, imho cycling is always a great way to get around and didn’t disappoint here either.
We cycled across another bridge where the landscape immediately became more rural.
The water level of the Nam Song River might have been low, but there was no lack of boats available for tourists to rent!
We tried to imagine what Vang Vieng might look like during the high season, sheer horror probably…
Paramotor gliding is popular here too.
Crossing back and forth the so-called wobbly Orange Bridge we had a closer look at the impressive Karst mountains before heading back to the rental shop.
Back at the guesthouse we retrieved our luggage, checked out, and hopped on a tuk-tuk to the bus station.
As we had plenty of time a few beers were in order, something that often happens when we travel together…
Suddenly a driver approached us and told us to get ready.
OK, depart 1 hour earlier, we didn’t complain but did buy 3 more cans for on-the-road consumption…
More passengers were picked up and as soon as we left Vang Vieng our minivan went up a very modern-looking motorway! (**)
This was completely new to us and made the 2 1/2 hour driving time understandable.
The 4 lane road had exactly one Chinese-looking stopping area and plenty of warning signs against drinking, feeling sleepy, and using the phone while driving…
Interestingly enough we didn’t see a single streetlight.
This was the fastest road transfer we’d ever encountered in Laos, only marred by one of the passengers in the back who insisted on sharing his 'wisdom' on working in China…
Once in Vientiane, we were dropped off in the center not far from Mixay Paradise.
We found a friendly skylab driver who was happy to take us to the border.
The border crossing went without a hitch and we got a Thai skylab to take us to a possible Nong Khai guesthouse.
And here we got a repeat of Vang Vieng, not replaced, but the guesthouse was closed due to whatever (Covid?).
Finding a new place was relatively easy and not much later we could leave our luggage at Sai Chan Guesthouse.
Although dinner was tempting we decided to get train tickets first, Tim & Ray to Khon Kaen, Bangkok for me.
Another skylab got us to the railway station fast enough but there was a slight problem, for Bangkok no more 2nd class tickets were available so I got 3rd, but not really a big deal.
But short rides, such as to Khon Kaen could only be bought on the day of departure, OK, we’d do that tomorrow.
Back at the market near our guesthouse we went to the promenade and had an excellent meal at a Vietnamese restaurant.
The rest of the evening was spent promenading up and down the Mekong riverside, observing local people having a good time, not a tourist in sight.
Two big Naga statues are a popular attraction.
We finished the day with coconut ice cream before hitting the sack.
(*) Last year’s Mekong cycling trip can be found here:
Final episode: https://www.art58koen.net/single-post/9-riding-the-rails-nong-khai-bangkok