Vientiane, Laos
17° 58' N 102° 35' E
Dec 31, 2007 10:07
Distance 391km

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Text written in: English

Thai Grand Prix

First of all, I'd like to say how glad I am to still be alive after my horrendous bus journey from Chiang Mai to Udon Thani. I swear the driver thought he was Michael Schumacher, but forgot he was driver a 50 seater coach. He was taking corners at 60 miles an hour.. I was bloomin petrified.

After my heart attack inducing journey, 12 hours later I arrived in Udon Thani. I've learnt to be very sceptical when being told something by a tuk tuk driver as they'll tell you anything to get you to go with them so they can charge you a fortune. The bus station we arrived at was conveniently in the middle of nowhere so I had no choice but to jump in an expensive tuk tuk to the other bus station where I was to catch my connecting bus to Nong Khai (very edge of the Thai border with Laos). I arrived at that station where I was told by another tuk tuk driver that I needed to get my visa from an office 7km's away (I was told that I could get it at the border immigration desks so I went to double check with information). They told me that I had to go to get my visa here before catching a bus to the border so I had to get another tuk tuk to 'the visa office' which turned out to be a 'travel agents' in the middle of nowhere. I was being done.. royally. They were going to charge me 2,000 Baht for my Laos visa.. which is about 32 pounds. (It actually costs $30 US so I paying more than double but there was nothing else I could do as the tuk tuk driver wouldn't take me anywhere without me buying it. I was so angry that they'd caught me out like this but didn't want to spend another minute there so just paid the money and got my departure visa card.

They told me a member of their staff would accompany me to Laos as my transport was included in the price. They then told me I would have to pay for the tuk tuk to take me back tot he bus station.. not a chance I said. They'd told me all transport was included then tried to swindle me again.. I was in no mood and they quickly told me I didn't have to pay. I got to the station and jumped on a bus to the border. When at the border we had to get another mini bus to the gate. At the gate 'Tor', the young guy accompanying me said he'd wait for me at the other side. It was only at that time as I saw him dissapear through the crowds that I realised I had no ticket and no money from them to pay for my transport. I was convinced that he'd done a runner as I waited at the other side for 20 minutes and no sign. Only when I started to make my way to the bus desk to book a ticket over the border he appeared smiling. I didn't know whether to be relieved or pissed off. We got on another bus over the border and when it came to crossing into Laos we had to stop at another set of immigration booths. This time he said I needed my passport stamped so he said for me to wait in the que while he went to get it stamped. Before I even knew what was going on he was off. As I watched him walk over to the office I didn't take my eyes off him. Then I suddenly thought.. 'what the hell are you doing Fiona?!!!' Possibly the most important item you are carrying with you and you've just willingly given it to some random Thai bloke who could easily buggar off with it and whom you could never track down! No sooner had he gone that I ran after him (well more sort of jog.. I was carrying 25k on my back). I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw him at one of the counters. I walked over and stood by him until the man had finished with my passport that I promtly grabbed and didn't again let out of my sight.

I eventually arrived, somewhat flustered, in Vientiane. I got a taxi into the city centre and made my way to a hostel that a friend I made in Chiang Mai was staying at and recommended.

So that's me here and more than ready to bring in 2008 with a large cold beer tonight!