We set ourselves with 2 conditions:

1. Enter Laos from Ubon Ratchathani (North Eastern part of Thailand);

2. Not to go on tourists’ VIP bus or train. So, we took a local bus.

This episode was quite an experience…

It supposed to be:

Bangkok –

Northern Bus Station [1 hour by taxi] –

Ubon Ratchathani [11 hours by aircon bus] –

Chong Met (Thai border) [2 hours by bus] –

Ban Mai Sing Amphon (Laos border) [walk across] –

Pakse (capital of Champasak Province, Southern Laos) – [1 hour by Swangthaew]

It turned out –

[6.30pm, 31 Aug – on schedule]

Checked out from happy guesthouse… Boarded a taxi to Northern bus station. The taxi driver asked for THB250 (US$6.80), we bargained it down to THB150 (US$4.05), and the journey took nearly an hour.

[7.30pm, 31 Aug – on schedule]

Arrived Northern bus station. We immediately bought ticket for 2nd class, local aircon bus at THB365 (US$9.90) per person to Ubon Ratchathani. No surprise. Phew!

[7.50pm, 31 Aug – on schedule]

Bus departed. Estimated arrival time is 6am next morning. The staff at the station was very helpful and extremely efficient. The whole journey on bus went smoothly.

[5.30am, 1 Sept – 30 mins earlier than schedule]

Arrived at Det Udom bus station (we thought it was Ubon Ratchathani at that time). Everyone got off the bus, so did we. We were immediately crowded by drivers and some drunken guys. They speak only Thai. Officers at the counter didn’t help much with the language barrier, thus this early morning was a battle for us. We barely communicate with them through single word plus hand signs. At the end we decided to take a Swangthaew to Chong Met, since they told us that there is a direct shared swangthaew to the check point. Fare: THB60 (US$1.62) per person.

[6.20am, 1 Sept, still on time]

Swangthaew departed.

[7.45am, 1 Sept, still on time]

Swangthaew stopped at Buntharik, a little town 49km east of Det Udom. We found one person who speak good English, and we were told to wait in the same swangthaew, and the fare is THB100 (US$2.70) per person instead. Furthermore, it doesn’t go to Chong Met, we need take another vehical at the next destination… Later, the driver offered to take us to Chong Met, fare: THB1000 (US$27). I was stunned, told him, “The overnight bus from Bangkok to Ubon, 10 hours, fully aircon, with blanket and comfortable cushion seat, we only paid THB365! No deal!” Driver wanted to negotiate, I refused.

[9.30am, 1 Sept – 30 mins behind schedule]

Swangthaew departed again.

[10.30am, 1 Sept – 1.5 hrs behind schedule]

Swangthaew dropped us off at an unknown place. We sat on a banch which has a sign board but God knows what had written on it. Behind us was a glossary store, and a old petrol station on the opposite side. In the 2 hours while we were waiting, besides a few swangthaew dropped off some locals, everything else looked still. Luckily we were accompanied by a gentle Thai guy who was heading to Chong Met as well, and he could speak little English.

[12.30pm, 1 Sept – 3.5 hrs behind schedule]

Finally a kind local offered us a ride to the Thai border for free! We were happily being transported on the back of his truck.

[1pm, 1 Sept – 4 hrs behind schedule]

Arrived Chong Met, Thai border check point. The gentle Thai guy excorted us till we exited Thailand. In between Thai border and Laos check point, a motorbike driver offered us a ride to Pakse at THB500 (US$14.50). We declined and went for lunch instead.

[1.30pm, 1 Sept – 4.5 hrs behind schedule]

After lunch, we went to the Laos immigrantion to declare our arrival. As a Malaysian, I am visa-free. It was quite an episode here. See detail at “Laos check point at Chung Met”, posted 1 Sept 2006.

[2pm, 1 Sept – 5 hrs behind schedule]

Walk to the bus station and waiting to board a shared swangthaew, cost 13,000 kips (US$1.30) per person. Taxi drivers offered ranging from THB200-400 (US$5.40-10.80). We insisted to take the shared swangthaew.

[2.40pm, 1 Sept – 5 hrs 40 mins behind schedule]

Swangthaew departed.

[3.40pm, 1 Sept – 6 hrs 40 mins behind schedule]

Finally, we arrived Pakse… and check in to U Thong Guesthouse…