My wife and I have probably been to Vientiane in Laos seven or eight times over the years, since it is the only
viable international destination, from where we live, if one does not have the 800k Baht for a 'retirement visa' or
the 400k Baht for a 'marriage visa'.
Laos lies to the north and north-east of Thailand and the capital of Laos, Vientiane is just 25 km over the
border from north Isaan.
I had the money for a 12-month visa for years, but, well, let's not get into that here and now, suffice it to
say that some years, I did not have enough money and had to go to Vientiane in Laos for a three-month visa instead.
The trip, or visa run, as it is known by expats, to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is always eventful and this
occasion was no exception.
We boarded our bus in Phitsanulok in northern Thailand with our luggage as usual, but a little later than normal
at 23:00 hours. As we departed from the bus bay, it was obvious to us sitting right at the front, that the door
would not close flush, but the stewardess lashed it tight to a seat near us and we continued towards our
It was fine by us passengers as Thailand is not a cold country after all.
Anyway, a few miles down the road, we encountered a detour because of road works. The turn in the road was very,
very sharp for a bus and we clipped a lamppost with the two inches of door that was protruding from the bus.
The collision broke the door's mooring ropes with a loud bang and the door flew down the road in the direction
from where we had just come like a stone from a catapult.
That didn't bother us travellers either, but the driver thought it prudent to put into the nearest depot and
swap buses. He didn't bother going back for the door though. The second bus was not as good as the first one, but
it did get us to Udon Thani, north Isaan, although it was more than an hour late, which made us miss our 5 A.M
transfer to Nong Khai on the Laos border.
We travelled with the 6 A.M bus instead.
However, the gears or the clutch was broken on that one and the driver couldn't get out of second gear. It
normally takes an hour to get from Udon Thani to Nong Khai, but this journey took three hours. A change in the
procedures for passport control put the icing on the cake and we arrived four minutes late at the Thai embassy to
complete stage one of the visa application that day.
"Come back tomorrow," suggested the helpful Thai immigration official.
We proceeded to the expensive hotel we had pre-booked, but they could not extend our stay as they were already
fully booked, so we had to find hotel. No problem, we looked in the vicinity of the Thai embassy when we had handed
my visa application in the next day.
The tourist hotel we found, 'The Vienvang', was not 100 yards from the embassy; a room was inexpensive at
125,000 kip per night, clean, very handy and well worth your consideration.
The return journey started with the minibus driver trying to charge us 500 Baht instead of the usual 200.
However, we eventually arrived at the Friendship Bridge, which spans the beautiful Mekong River and got to Nong
Khai bus station, only to be told that the bus service we required had been discontinued.
We didn't believe the minibus driver who told us that, but it turned out to be true and the time we lost finding
out cost us forty-five minutes. The minibus driver would not take us to the bus station just outside Udon Thani
town centre, so we needed to take a taxi from there, which cost us our connection again.
We had to wait three and a half hours for the next bus to Phitsanulok, which meant that the 12 hour trip turned
into a journey of 18 hours and we arrived in Phitsanulok just in time for the morning rush hour.
I don't want ever to have to make that visa run again through north Isaan to Vientiane in Laos.
by +Owen Jones