After Cambodia, I flew to Bangkok to meet the group of 5 people I mentioned in an earlier post from back home who were on holiday in Thailand for Christmas and New Year. I was glad to be travelling with a group during this period as I could have potentially got a little homesick being away from family and friends during the festive season. On Christmas day, I stayed in quite a nice hotel (even though they did put me in a smelly smoking room with no window, not specified on booking.com, as it turns out I could have paid £3 extra for a non-smoking window room grrr) and while I waited for them to arrive I spent a few hours by the roof-top pool trying to summon up some Christmas spirit, which was quite a hard feat when catching some rays by a pool. Also, although they do celebrate Christmas in Thailand, it is not a public holiday and it was business as usual.
When the others arrived, we were all buzzing and raring to go and explore the renowned Bangkok nightlife but after enjoying a very nice all-you-can eat Christmas dinner at a place called the Kiwi Bar in Nana district, we could barely move or keep our eyes open so we went back to the hotel for an hour’s nap. Once we had recovered from the feast, we went out and sampled the nightlife which was buzzing. Bangkok was expensive though and I was glad we were only staying one night.
The next day we headed south down to Hua Hin, which is a coastal town about 3 hours south of Bangkok. Unfortunately, the weather was horrible for the whole 3 days we spent there as I think the remnants of Tropical Storm Tembin (which had recently battered the Philippines) was passing through Thailand. We had hoped for some sun but all we got was rain, wind and it was also cold. I never thought I would ever report that it was cold in Thailand but I had to wear a few extra layers including a hoody. Due to the weather, there wasn’t much else to do so it was basically bars – restaurant – more bars – hotel – nursing hangover – massage – restaurant – bars – nursing hangover etc etc. It was a really good laugh though and I liked Hua Hin as a town, nice relaxed vibe. A couple of people from the group I hadn’t met before either so it was good to meet and get to know some new people and they were all sound lads.
I did witness another motorbike accident there. I bet if I researched the statistics it would show that the biggest danger to travellers, tourists and expats in South East Asia is not crime, drugs, tropical diseases, sexual infections or killer mosquitos. The biggest danger, by far, must surely be the road. In only 6 weeks, I had myself witnessed 5 accidents – two in Hanoi, a really bad one in Ho Chi Minh where a scooter ploughed into the back of a van, the aftermath of a bus crash in Cambodia and now this motorbike accident. The guy looked like he had hurt his leg badly but the ambulance arrived quickly.
For the week of New Years Eve we went to Pattaya which is a bit of a party town, I guess you could call it Sin City. I have been here before and it was just as sleazy as it always is with a highly visible sex industry with several red light districts and lots of Go-Go bars (strip clubs basically) but there is another side to Pattaya and it is a great place to have a party and lots of beer bars with live music and nightclubs and it was also quite cheap with lots of deals on, especially food and beer, fireworks etc. Many bars were even serving free food for the New Year period. It was a fun place to see in the New Year although it was a bit sketchy with people letting off fireworks everywhere in the street, even throwing Tiger 10 bangers in the bars! When I first heard the banging in the below video I must admit I panicked a little bit and nearly ducked for cover under the table given the current global climate.
I wanted to see some temples and museums or do some trekking but after arguing my case as strongly as I could the rest of the group voted against that so Pattaya just involved a lot of drinking and partying again – well that’s what you do Xmas and New Year I guess. Not much else to report really, was a good laugh and great to see in the New Year with some lads from back home. I haven’t been drinking much on this trip either, just once or twice a week max, so I had already decided to let go a bit while meetings these guys. We basically lived by the night and slept in the day. The cleaner knocking every morning at 10AM was a little annoying though so I finally figured out how to stop him by putting up the do not disturb sign on the door.
Another thing I will say is that when I get home and go for a drink at my local bar if there is not some lady outside greeting me with “Welcome Sexy Man”, they can forget it!
After Pattaya, we took a very early morning flight to Udon Thani in Issan, Northern Thailand. This was a low-key place and we just spent one night there before heading to Nong Khai. We had a mad night out there and unfortunately I got a bit carried away and stayed out until at least 4 or 5AM in the morning which was a terrible idea as we had to move on the next day to cross the border into Laos. Here are some of the photos from that night, a few of which I don’t even recall taking.
Next day I woke up about 11.00AM with the hangover to end all hangovers. There are no real words in the English language to sufficiently convey how bad this hangover was. And we had a big day ahead of us – crossing the Laos border and travelling to Vientiane and as luck would have it, the border crossing was a stressful, hectic and confusing process which I had to endure with this killer hangover.
The plan was to get a short train ride from Nong Khai to Thanaleng in Laos where we would get stamped in and be on our way, we had read on the internet that this was an easier process then crossing at the Friendship bridge which can be chaotic. We were expecting it to be nice and breezy / cheap and easy.
We arrived at the train station and caught the 2.45PM train which was a breeze and we got a lovely view of the Mekong River while crossing into Laos.
After the train ride, things started going a bit downhill from there. When we arrived, it turned out that the Visa on Arrival office was closed – they only open in the morning even though there are only two trains to this place per day. After much confusion and nobody really seeming willing to tell us what to do – just blank stares – we eventually convinced an official looking immigration guy to help us and he told us we had to go for a drive to the Friendship bridge to get our visa. He drove us there (a bit odd driving through Laos without being stamped in) and the place was just total carnage, hundreds of people and we were also on the wrong side – the Laos side. The guy just dumped us there with no instructions, just more blank stares. Fortunately, a taxi driver came up and offered to help us out with the process in return for us using his services to drive to Vientiane. We went to one booth to collect some forms, filled out two forms with the same information and then handed it in at another ticket booth with our passport with the fee of $36 for the Visa (random dollar added on for no reason) and were then told to wait at a third booth where we finally got our passports stamped and approved for 30 days. We then had to go to another desk to show them the stamp. Not the most easy or straightforward process to say the least but it was a relief once it was sorted!
We finally arrived at the hotel in Vientiane where I went straight to bed, still feeling rough as a badgers ar………..well you get the picture. I was, however, excited and looking forward to the start of my 2 -3 week adventure in Laos……
I am still with the group, less a couple who have dropped off along the way, for a couple more days and then it will be back to solo travel which might be a bit strange at first. I have become used to travelling with other people but I will definitely be having a break off the alcohol and am even considering doing much of Laos alcohol free and getting into some activities and outdoor adventures – we shall see! Never say never though, I do hear Vang Vieng could be a bit of a party town.
Next post: Time in Vientiane.