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  • Writer's pictureDonna Kitchen

Northern Laos

Southern Laos was not on our original itinerary but as it is when you travel, you meet people and hear how amazing places are. In addition, we had this itch to ride a motorbike loop independently and as you've read in previous blog posts, we ended up riding the Bolaven Plateau Loop out of Pakse. As we were so far south in Laos we had no choice but to make our way to the Four Thousand Islands. Having a flexible itinerary we were able to change our plans quite easily and I am so glad we did.

Today we would beginning to travel north of Laos with our first stop being Vang Vieng. Before heading off though, we had the morning in Vientiane.

On our original arrival in to Vientiane we were treated to the beautiful buddhist temples with their golden roof tops and stupas. Pha That Luang or the Great Stupa is one of the most beautiful and famous temples in Laos believed to have been originally built in the 3rd century but due to many confrontations in Laos had been destroyed and rebuilt again. The golden stupa is magnificent structure reaching 45metres into the sky.

The grounds were very lovely and peaceful to walk around with its golden temples which we were able to enter.

This is active temple so you'll see monks and novices going about their day within the area.

I'm so glad we took the time to visit this very important temple as we were very impressed with the historical artefacts within the grounds.

Returning to our Le Charme hotel it was time for an exciting part of our journey. We would be riding on the famous speed train from Vientiane to Boten, China which only opened in 2021. Today we would only be travelling as far as Vang Vieng. As the process of purchasing the train tickets is quite convoluted, we had the hotel organise the tickets for us costing 450,000LAK each including transport to the train station.

The Vientiane railway station is 17kms taking about 30min from the centre which ended up being a long 30 minutes. It all starts with a slight stabbing feeling in the gut that alerts you to the fact that something isn't quite right. A few minutes later, it happens again as that squirmishness moves lower in your abdomen. Oh dear! Checking google maps I see that we are still 20 minutes or so from the station. As we're in a mini bus with other people it would be embarrassing to ask the driver to find the closest toilet but wouldn't it be more embarrassing to 'evacute' as we began to call it, while on the bus. Mind control, focusing on holding the 'evacuation' at bay until we arrived at the railway station. On the way I googled information on the railway station to see where the toilet was so I could make a bee line for it on arrival.

Ok, driving into the station, I spotted the outside toilet, scrambling over everyone in the bus, all the while staying focused on internalising the evacuation. As the outside toilets were an afterthought when building the station, the building was basically a shed or a 'donger' with a concrete ramp leading to the entrance. On entering a group of staff were sitting on the floor playing a card game. Okay, that's weird but whatever. Phew, I made it to the cubicle in time and luckily I'd packed a packet of tissues. Well, that was a relief. Leaving the toilet shed, walking down the ramp I was looking in the direction of the railway station's entrance. Suddenly I was looking at the concrete ramp as I'd slipped and fallen flat on my face. As you do, I recovered very quickly, jumping up hopefully before anyone noticed. Finding Kev outside I recited my little escapade reminding him of the signs of concussion.

We were warned ahead of time that entering the station is similar to that of an airport. Firstly to even get in the door you need to show security your tickets, then bags go through a scanner as do you. As with airports, aerosols, sharps, chemicals etc. are band. If you have water, they'll ask you to take a sip to prove it is not an explosive substance which we did quite gladly.

Once inside the station, there is plenty of seating, a shop selling a very small selection of food and drinks, a hot and cold water vending machine and toilets. A large screen showing the train times, similar to that of an airport. Close to the time that the train was due we were then allowed through the next checkpoint to go form a single file line at the instructed point. This would align with the train door you were to enter.

The train arrived exactly on time and surprisingly, everyone calmly entered the train with attendants welcoming us on board and instructing us to leave our big backpacks at the entry point.

Very similar to an aeroplane we then went and found our seats. Unlike a plane, there was much more room in the aisle as well as plenty of leg room between rows of seats. The seats, which reclined, were very plush and comfortable and a tray table was on the back of the seat in front. We found the seats much more comfortable that plane seats.

We were very impressed with the added personal touch of real faux flowers on the wall. We chose to travel in economy whsere the seats are in a 3×2 configuration.

The Lao China Railway fast train travels a speed of 120-160km/h. With only 55 minutes to travel the 110km (approx) distance we didn't have that much time to take too much in but it was surreal to be travelling at such a speed and not feeling it like you do in a car for instance. We were buzzed like little kids on their first trip to the zoo which seems quite silly really but this was a new experience for us and this was a section of the trip that we had been looking forward to.

About 10 minutes out from Vang Vieng Station an announcement was made for those disembarking to prepare themselves and their luggage to exit on arrival. **** Making our way the long platform to the exit gate we find that we are required to show, yet again, our tickets!

The Vang Vieng Railway Station was also a fair way out of Vang Vieng proper so tuk tuk trucks being the only option to get there. We were quoted a price for the trip and ushered to an almost full vehicle. Even though we didn't know what we were doing, they definitely did as all the drivers civilly seemed to work it out putting us on the tuk tuk with its passengers all heading in the same area. There were no taxi touts, in fact no-one approached us until we approached them. Very unusual. We love riding in any form of open transport as there's no better way to take in all the smells, the sounds or feel all the bumps of the potted road compared to the enclosed capsule of a taxi. Don't you agree!

This has been a long day starting with a hot couple of hours walking around The Great Stupa in Vientiane, making it just in time to the toilet only to fall flat on my face, negotiate railway security and lugging our 15kg backpack and 5kg small backpack through security and on and off a fast train, then finally finding transport into Vang Vieng. You know what! We are LOVING it!

See you next time

Donna & Kevin


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Aug 04, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Loved the whole journey.

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