Getting to Bangkok from Laos involved a bit of a commute. First we bussed from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, where we stayed the night and then caught a bus the following afternoon to Udon Thani. This involved staying another night, before catching a flight early the next morning to Bangkok. This was a pretty cheap way to do it – as flights from Udon Thani were not only a bargain; but we also thought it would be a good opportunity to check out Laos’ capital and some other sights along the way.
We didn’t know much about Laos before we arrived, and in some ways this was great – no expectations usually means you will be pleasantly surprised. Vientiane was a bit of a let down however; for a capital city, it was pretty darn boring. We checked into our hostel at about 7pm, and despite it being a Saturday night, the majority of our room was already in bed. We wandered the night market, which was pretty cute, before us girls headed out for a game of bowling (#wheninlaos). The next morning we eyed up one of the main tourist attractions, Patuxai, which is essentially the Arc de Triomphe of Laos. Well, that’s what they claim anyway; and they definitely have their similarities. After paying Noy’s Fruit Heaven a visit (for some quality food and drink) we met up with the boys who had located a rather heavily chlorinated pool for us to lounge by before our next bus ride.
When we arrived in Udon Thani we scouted out the mall looking for somewhere authentic to eat; paradoxically ending up at McDonalds (mainly because the free wifi allowed us to hostel hunt). Not too far away we found a place with brothel style showers, dirty linen and the walls a shade of yellow that could only have slotted in somewhere between mustard and puke on the colour shading chart. Our conclusion: it had once been, and hopefully no longer was, a brothel. After the hostel owner took a photo of us (?!) we opted for an early night before our early morning flight to Bangkok.
Some serious indecisiveness about our best way to get into Bangkok from the airport was only the beginning of a day of transport nightmares. We decided the bus and Skytrain combination would be cheaper than two taxis (due to there being five of us) and it probably was, although we will always wonder whether a taxi may have prevented what was to follow. We had all splashed out for a beauty of an Air BnB apartment, and we were all very excited for some luxurious accommodation. Following the directions from the Skytrain, we braved a 1.8km walk in humidity like I’d never experienced, to where we thought our apartment should be. It wasn’t there, and upon rechecking the address we realised there was in fact, two addresses in the directions we had been given. We asked for directions many a time, and were continually pointed in the direction of wherever we’d just come from. We eventually gave up and got in a taxi, only to be seriously ripped off (we were past the point of caring), but he frustratingly dropped us off exactly where we’d got in, because he couldn’t find it either. At borderline breaking point we actually got through to the help desk at Air BnB who gave us accurate directions.
Thankfully, the quality of the apartment completely compensated for the difficulty we’d had in finding it. A room each, a pool, gym and steam room, unlimited DVDs, and a fully self catered kitchen made us feel like A list celebrities, at least temporarily. A quick stop to the supermarket almost turned into a day trip – it was like a theme park in there! It was massive, absolutely fascinating and the steady stream of cold air coming from the roof certainly wasn’t unwelcome. That night we had a few drinks over a delicious home cooked dinner (curry of course) before heading out to Soi Cowboy, for a night at Suzie Wongs. It was, ahem, enlightening. We decided we didn’t want to taxi across town to Khao San Road for a ping-pong show, and had heard that, conveniently, there was a similar area relatively close to our house. I’m pleased we didn’t travel. And I’m also pleased we didn’t pay. We’d read about a fair few scams that go on at these ping pong shows, and while the show itself was something we were all intrigued by, I don’t think any of our group would have wanted to empty their pockets over what we saw.
The next morning was a case of dropping like flies. We had all wanted to visit Khao San Road. Cam was too hungover to get out of bed, Summer almost vomited in the taxi and had to politely evacuate herself, the taxi driver was claiming he’d never heard of Khao San Road (?!) so 2 hours later James also had to remove himself in order to start his transit to the airport (to fly home to NZ) leaving just Kels and I in the taxi. 2.5 hours later (only 17km) we pulled up at our final destination. We refused to pay the meter amount, so just gave him what we thought was fair before making a hasty departure. Whether it be our moods (slightly hungover combined with the frustratingly long morning spent in traffic) or the extreme heat, we were very unimpressed with Khao San Road, and after a quick self guided tour down the street and along to the Royal Palace we just wanted to go home. It took awhile to negotiate a reasonably priced taxi fare home, but we made it in record time, and spent the rest of the afternoon recovering by the pool and/or in front of the AC airflow. That night we were joined by the Brits again (our friends from Kohphangan + Vang Vieng) for a fun night of food, games and booze, before they flew out to Hanoi the next morning and we were joined by James’ replacement, Abby. After briefly exploring the mall and food court around Siam, we headed off to the airport – this time bound for Vietnam.