Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cycling Nothern Laos (2)

Sunday (February 22, 2006)
This 24 hours train trip is so comfortable it gives me the rest that I need and a great morning to start with. Starts my day with a stick of MILD SEVEN… watching sunrise by long scenic PADI fields from the coach door while ZUL still snoring. What we going to have for breakfast… hmmm bread. But have to wait ZUL to wake up… DARN.

Arrived in busy and dusty BANGKOK around 11:00am… HUALOMPONG TRAIN STATION. Purchase our ticket to NONGKAI. The departure time was 8:45pm. So, we cycle around BANGKOK for lunch… taking free map at the nearest MRT station to guide us trough the city.

Indian Streets, Bangkok & Zhou with CHAO PHRAYA RIVER background

Hourly cycle along busy CHAROEN KRUNG ROAD towards GRAND PALACE, cross CHAO PHRAYA RIVER and cycle back towards city using SAPHAN PHUT Memorial Bridge surely makes our skin burn, but every thing we came across is a worth experience. Not forgetting cycle along RAMA IV road towards the city, and any other road I can’t spell or remember… end up at McDonalds for Fillet at one of BANGKOK superstore.

Before 7pm we cycle back towards HUALOMPONG TRAIN STATION to catch our train to NONG KAI. At the station we write postcards to our office mates and buy TOMYAM cup noodle and water for our 12-hour trip. Buying tickets for our bicycle and 8:45pm went off to NONG KAI. It’s a night train… we wash out our exhaustion by sleep along the journey. North East Thailand connects Thai and Lao by Friendship Bridge build on 1994.

Me at Hualompong Railway

Monday (February 23, 2006)
Around 11am we arrived at small town NONG KAI. It was quiet, dry and quite chilly… we didn’t plan to spent that much time in NONGKAI so we head off towards LAOS cycling. Form the train station it took us about 15 minutes to reach the Thailand Immigration Complex cycling. The complex is a little bit busy as is was the main road for Thai or Lao people to cross border. However the traffic was 10x better then Singapore-Malaysia coast way. After leaving THAILAND we have to cycle again 1170 meter along the Friendship Bridge.

Thai Lao Friendship bridge
As we arrived at LAO border there’s a lot of western traveler at the entrance as they wait their turn to approve or validate their visas. In our case we automatic get 14 days free travel visa because MALAYSIA is part of ASEAN country. Nice eh… we just fill up our immigration form and off we go cycle towards LAO capital called Vientiane.

After 2 hours cycling we reach VIENTIANE, a KOTA BHARU (MALAYSIA) look a like city. We haven’t take shower ever since we starts our travel. So, finding a decent and cheap guesthouse should be a priority. I have been to VIENTIANE before so finding one is not a problem. So, we stop by MIXAY guesthouse… it’s very basic and comfortable. The main point staying at MIXAY because it’s very near to MEKONG RIVER. There’s a lot of good restaurant nearby and one of our favorite serve Indian cuisine called NAZIM HALAL Restaurant.

After lunch we cycled around VIENTIANE. VIENTIANE is so small we barely covered all area until 9pm. We even cycle towards the airport that is quite far from the city, and try to locate the NOTHERN BUS STATION for tomorrow traveling towards LUANG PRABANG
. After that we went to one of the most interesting place and highest building in VIENTIANE called PATUXAY. From a closer distance, it appears ever less impressive, like a monster concrete. Nowadays this place is used as leisure ground for the people in VIENTIANE and seventh floor on top of the building serves an excellent viewpoint over the city.

Before 11pm we cycle back to our guesthouse as its door closed on 11pm.

Patuxay (Victory Monument)
"The Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge (Thai Saphan Mittaphap Thai-Lao) is a bridge over the river Mekong, connecting the provinces of Nong Khai (city of Nong Khai) in Thailand and Vientiane in Laos. Opened on April 8, 1994, it was the first bridge crossing the lower Mekong, and the second on the full course of the Mekong.

The bridge spans a total length of 1170 m. The total cost of the bridge was about 30 million US dollars, funded by the Australian government as development aid for Laos. The bridge was built by Australian companies as a demonstration of the capabilities of their ability to complete major infrastructural projects in southeast Asia. This mixing of development aid with commercial interests was criticized by some NGOs.

Traffic on the bridge drives on the left, as it does in Thailand, while traffic in Laos drives on the right: the changeover is controlled by traffic lights at the Lao end."
"LUANG PRABANG is an outstanding example of the fusion of traditional architecture and Lao urban structures with those built by the European colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its unique, remarkably well-preserved townscape illustrates a key stage in the blending of these two distinct cultural traditions."
"PATUXAY is a huge structure resembling the ARC DE TRIOMPHE. However, the other name for it is VICTORY GATE OF VIENTIANE. It was built in 1962, but never complete due to the country turbulent history."