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2 November, Nong Khai to Vientiane, 27km
Souvanna Hotel 120,000LAK

48 hours door-to-door. We flew from Istanbul on October 31 via a wet Amman to Bangkok; from 12 degrees to 32 degrees and humid. By taxi then to Hua Lamphong train station to board our second-class air-con sleeper for the overnight journey to Nong Khai, south of the Laos border. We crossed the Mekong River, which forms the border, via the Friendship Bridge and cycled the 20-plus kms into Vientiane, capital of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. We became instant millionaires by drawing one million Laotian kip (LAK) at the border post, the maximum allowed from an ATM, but had spent this by the end of the day on visa fees and meals. The exchange rate, South African rand to Laotian kip: ZAR1 = 730LAK. On our ride into town we had to learn almost immediately the local protocol concerning scooters approaching one on the wrong side of the road. In Laos, they hug the pavement and you move further into the road, trusting to the driving skills of those approaching from behind. Our first meal menu offered the intriguing “tied tightly to mat”. I confess we were not adventurous enough to try it. We met a French history professor on the train who told us that Vientiane was celebrating an important annual festival, in conjunction with a trade fair, centred around Pha That Luang temple. In the early evening we took a tuk-tuk to the temple and there strolled the rowdy streets until dinner and again after. The noise level was incomprehensible. Each stall or music or dance event had set up a really bad sound system and each was trying to drown out the sales pitch of the others ... deafening. But the streets were packed and the faces happy and the mood upbeat. 

Train 69
Train 69
Friendship Bridge
Friendship Bridge
Pha That Luang
Pha That Luang
That Luang festival
That Luang festival
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