So, after spending a couple of weeks in the self-quarantine mode at Sengphachanh Hotel 2 in Vientiane, I had to change my travel plan from my original itinerary.
My itinerary was supposed to include so many more beautiful places in Laos. Initially, I was supposed to head to Vang Vieng before leaving for Luang Prabang, so I could get a chance to explore the northern part of Thailand before going back to Bangkok. However, due to my situation as I got recovered from my illness, the people from the embassy suggested going back home sooner rather than later.
At the time, I realized that maybe it’s a bad idea to follow my initial plan anyway, so I agreed to head directly to Bangkok from Vientiane. If anything happened, it’s easier to find a reliable (and cheaper!) hospital in Bangkok than anywhere in Laos. Even if I had to return from Bangkok, it’s easy to find a direct flight from Thailand’s capital city to Jakarta than Vientiane.
So I had to follow my gut, and that was to head back to Bangkok instead of continuing my journey to the northern part of Laos and Thailand. The good thing is that I still had some credits from Bookaway, so I didn’t think twice when I found an option to travel from Vientiane to Bangkok using the first-class train from Nong Khai.
3 Things You Need to Know About Traveling by Train from Laos to Thailand
When I found an option to travel by train from Vientiane, I really thought that I would travel directly by train from Laos to Thailand. As it turned out, it wasn’t the case.
1. The price.
While it isn’t possible to travel directly from Laos to Thailand by train, you can still book a train ticket to Bangkok from Vientiane.
Normally, for the ticket booked through Bookaway, they arrange a bus to get across the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge to Nong Khai in Thailand. For the first-class train, the total journey would cost you around $70 USD in total.
Other than that, there’s also a second-class train that you can get for around $50 USD, but I’m not too sure if it’s the same train as I took from Nong Khai to Bangkok.
2. The procedure to travel.
Due to my health condition at the time, my embassy was a little concerned about my health that they really offered me the corps of diplomatique service to cross the border and reach Nong Khai without any hassle.
However, the regular procedure if you book a train ticket from Vientiane to Bangkok via Bookaway is that they will arrange transportation from Haysoke Guest House in Vientiane.
The scheduled departure from Vientiane is at 3 PM. They will take you to the border service, and then reach the train station in Nong Khai.
As I decided to cross the border with the CD service from the embassy, I asked my liaison to stop by Haysoke Guest House before heading to Nong Khai. I was afraid that there’s anything I need to know before traveling independently to Nong Khai with all the benefits I got from the embassy.
The staff at the guest house looked a bit confused at first, but he told me that I could travel separately to Nong Khai and just show my booking at the train station.
That was his only mistake, because when I got to the station, apparently it was required to have a printed ticket to board the train. Fortunately, the train departure was at 7 PM, and I had plenty of time to find the nearest printing service.
3. What you need to know if you want to travel separately from Vientiane.
A copy of the train ticket was attached to my booking details from Bookaway, so I could easily print it myself. It cost me 10 baht to print the ticket, so I think this is essential if you plan to travel from Vientiane. Ask the guest house staff to print out your ticket to save your time!
Review: Thai Railway’s First Class Train from Nong Khai to Bangkok
After I got my ticket printed, they allow me to enter the station area. It was only around 4 PM when my train was supposed to depart at around 7 PM.
I figure that the scheduled departure from Vientiane was set at 3 PM because they take the precaution for the border service that could take forever. But well, with my privilege at the time, the border service only took around 30 minutes so I reached the train station earlier than expected.
Nong Khai Train Station
Nong Khai train station is rather a small one, but everything is in place. While I can’t find any money exchange service at the train station, I exchanged my Lao Kip for Thai Baht at Asawann Shopping Complex, where we went to have lunch together in Nong Khai.
There’s no wifi in the public area, so you can only rely on mobile data if you want to get online. But if you need some snacks and all that, there’s also a small shop at the station where you could buy chips or mineral water. The public restroom was relatively clean as well.
Thai Railway’s First-Class Train
My first impression of the first-class train from Nong Khai to Bangkok was very good. You see, I was already super impressed by the sleeper train from Hanoi to Sa Pa that I took a few years ago, and apparently, the first-class train of Thai Railways is even better!
What You Need to Know About the First-Class Train
They have a private cabin, each one of them will be occupied by 2 (two) passengers, which is a downside if you travel solo as I did!
In my case, my ‘cabinmate’ was a guy. So, I had no idea that there’s some kind of rules that we’re not supposed to share the cabin with the opposite sex unless we know each other. When the train attendant checked our ticket, he asked whether we’re partners and we were like… Nope.
I didn’t know what happened, but suddenly the train crew told us that they’d probably change one of our seats because we weren’t supposed to sit in the same cabin.
That, until the guy who was supposed to be my cabinmate, he told me that his girlfriend booked the ticket for him so he might have been mistaken as a woman. When he told me that, I was really hoping he’d be the one who had to move, but nope… I had to move a few cabins away while the asshole could spend alone in the cabin.
I ended up moving to another cabin and sharing it with a mom and his kid. They’ve got the below part of the bunk bed, and the mom seems to be so occupied with a video call almost half of the journey to Bangkok because she talked so loud.
Nevertheless, it kind of ruined my mood.
What I Think About Thai Railway’s First-Class Train
While the cabin looks so neat and exclusive, the changing-my-seat situation absolutely ruined the rest of my first-time experience getting on the first-class train.
Plus, I’m not sure if it had something to do with my health condition at the time, but the air conditioner felt so cold that I was freezing the whole night.
Well, they don’t have wifi connection on-board, but each seat has its electricity socket so I could easily charge my phone or even connect my laptop for work. It was actually super convenient.
To be fair, the experience would have probably gone beyond, if only I traveled with someone that I actually know instead of getting stuck with a loud lady who keeps having her phone screen on.
My Final Verdict of the First-Class Train from Nong Khai to Bangkok
To be fair, the facilities and everything offered for the first-class train from Nong Khai to Bangkok is remarkable! It looks super convenient, especially if you travel with your family.
It gives you enough privacy, while you basically get everything you need in the cabin from the sink (it’s corona o’clock, wash your hands!) to the electricity socket.
- It’s relatively easy to get a train ticket from Nong Khai to Bangkok. While it is probably cheaper to buy the ticket at the station, the ticket is also available online. I booked it through Bookaway, but you can also find them on some other online booking platforms.
- The cabin is super cozy, it’s suitable for family travel. And if you’re planning to travel with the elderly, I’d totally recommend this train.
- They also provide a pillow and a blanket for each passenger so you can sleep well throughout the journey.
- They depart on time.
- Just like the sleeper bus in Laos, they are quite strict to not let strangers sit together in the same cabin if they’re the opposite sex. When you encounter the same experience as I did where I had to change seat and everything because of the error system during the seat arrangement, it could be quite annoying.
- The air conditioner is super cold if you get the upper bed in the bunk.
- If you travel solo, your experience will really depend on who you end up sitting with as your cabin mate.
My experience with the Thai Railway’s first-class train made me decide to try the second-class train, so I could compare my verdict in my next journey. Well, I’ll probably write about it in the next few weeks or so…
But until then, what’s your favorite mode of transportation while traveling around Thailand?! Share your two cents below in the comment, and cheerio! 😉
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