Reluctantly, we booked an overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Nong Khai, Thailand for March 13th night. I say reluctantly because we really liked Thailand, and wanted to stay, but our 30-day tourist visas expired on March 14th, so we had to leave (though we could turn around and come right back in with a new 30-day tourist visa if we wanted). The train was a 2nd class sleeper train though the berths were smaller this time, and many people tied their luggage to their luggage racks (we used a chain and a lock that we brought with us). We had purchased a travel-sized, wooden, Connect4 game set at the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, so we played it some amongst other things before nodding off.
We arrived at Nong Khai about 90 minutes late, which I’ve come to expect for long train journeys, though I still wonder why the trains are so late, especially since they run this same route every single day. Maybe the arrival time is falsely stated, on purpose? I’m not sure what the motivation is.
In Nong Khai, there are two trains that go across the “Friendship Bridge” into the country of Laos, which crosses over the Mekong River. They held the morning train for us. We bought a ticket for the short train ride, 20 TB each (about 67 cents). Then we had to clear immigration, which was quick.
The train was an old, rattling number with two small passenger cars, and took about 5 minutes. An officer with the Thai military accompanied the train across the river.
Upon arrival in Thanaleng, Laos, we had to acquire 30-day tourist visas, which involved some paperwork and waiting in line. In Thailand – they just put a stamp with a handwritten expiration date on our passports. In Laos, they put in a sticker which took one side of a whole page in the passport. The cost of the visa was $35 (we paid in US dollars). From the train station, we booked a tuk tuk ride to the city center of the city of Vientiane, Laos, to our pre-booked guesthouse. It was 300 TB for the tuk tuk – we were both surprised that they accepted Thai currency in a Lao border town, but I guess it’s close enough that it makes sense.