Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Exclusive interview with Grand Master Toddy

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My visa run to Vientiane, Lao

At the bottom of the page I will put the prices of everything.

I stay at Ultra Fight Gym in Bearing soi 22, Sukhumvit 107.
I left at 5pm
My journey started with a motorcycle trip from the gym to BTS Bearing.
I took the BTS to Asok as I had to get some photo's done and get copies of my Passport, I could have either got on the BTS to Mochit or took the MRT to Chatuchak park, I decided to take the MRT because it was slightly cheaper and quicker.

Once at Chatuchak MRT station I left and followed the signs towards chatuchak park, once outside I walked up to a motorcycle taxi and asked to go to Mochit bus station.  He said 50 Baht which was also on a sign a couple of meters away.

We arrived at the bus station, first thing I did was say to someone, Nongkhai, they said 3rd floor, this is to buy your ticket for the bus.  So this is the first thing you do so you secure your seat, once at the top, you will see a lot of booths with different Thai writing on them, go up to one of the people waiting in front of the booths and say Nongkhai, they will point you where to go, or they will wave you to follow them.

Once at the booth you say where your going, they will give you options of time, pick a good time for you and buy the ticket.  The ticket person will highlight a number, this number is the terminal you will leave from.  Once you have bought your ticket you will see signs to your left, follow these signs, they will take you to the bus terminal.  In the bus station there are 3 7eleven's, so you can get supplies before your journey, and also just before you walk down towards the terminals there is a food court if your hungry.
While you are waiting for the time of your bus there is seating, so you don't have to stand and if you want some snacks there is a snack stall just in front of the chairs.

Next go to your terminal number and show your ticket to some people there, they will guide you to your bus and a lady on the bus will guide you to your seat.  I was lucky as were most of the other passengers as the bus was nearly empty, so it was 2 seats per person, this is great for anyone travelling long distance because you can sleep more easily as you can lye over the 2 seats.  My bus left about 8:30pm and arrived in Nongkhai about 6:30am in the morning.  The bus was good because it gave 1 meal token, water and crisps, with the ticket only being 450 Baht, really can't complain.  The journey took 10 hours, most of which I slept through because I made sure I was tired the day before.

So we arrived in Nongkhai bus station at 6:30am, the bus station is about 3-4km from the boarder and you have 3 options, you can walk, take a motorbike taxi or a tuk tuk.  The Tuk tuk drivers will try and charge you high prices, but you should be able to get them down to about 60-80 Baht, and if there is 2 of you, you can split the cost.  A motorbike taxi will be about 50 Baht.

Instead of taking either, I first went to a restaurant beside the bus station and had some breakfast, the food here was Thai food.  I had chicken with garlic and rice (Gai Tawt Gratium).

 After this I decided to walk to the boarder, I thought it was only 2km, so no problem for me, but after walking 2km, I realised it was further than I thought.
The long walk ended after 50 minutes a great stroll in the morning but not when you need the toilet!!!  When I finally got to immigration I was passed desperate, I followed the signs for the toilet, it was 5 Baht but I didn't care, I needed this ASAP.  To my relief it was a western toilet too, I was over the moon!!!!

After doing my toilet business I went to the immigration, only a small line of 5 people because it was about 7am and the big crowds had already left.  The immigration officer stamped my passport, now I was in no mans land, not in Thailand, not in Lao.

I went straight to the ticket counter to buy a bus ticket to the Lao boarder because it would have been quite a trek there.  The bus was full but 1 seat left, so I sat down and enjoyed the ride, it took about 5 mins to get from the Thai boarder to the Lao boarder.

At the Lao boarder I had $40 dollars which I had changed the day before because it worked out better than paying in Baht, I only needed $35 for my Lao visa because it was after overtime hours and didn't cost me the extra $1.  I bought my Lao visa and a guy came over to me asking if I wanted to go to Vientiane for 300 Baht, at first I refused, but then I thought, hell with it, I am tired and just want to get to my hotel.  I received my visa back, paid the 10 Baht for the friendship bridge and followed the guy to his taxi.

Once at the consulate I sat down with some guys outside the consulate, stupid mistake, they charged me 10 Baht for 1 copy of 1 of my pages of my passport, I should have seen through this and gone straight into the consulate and did this all myself.  We live and learn!  So inside the consulate walls I went and gave my forms, copies of my passport, Photo's and paperwork for my ED visa to one counter, went inside and gave my 2000 Baht to the other counter.  I went outside and back to the original taxi driver.  He took me to Vientiane and I found my own hotel.

I had been to Vientiane 3 times before and had stayed in various places.  The one hotel I remember was M.O.I.C.  This was the closest to where the taxi driver had dropped me off.  I went in, paid for my one night and went to my room.  I was going to shower but had no soap, so went downstairs, bought some soap and thought I needed to book my ticket home, so I went on the search for the company which I used before, but I think they went out of business or moved because I couldn't find them, so I walked along the main street and found a few tourist agencies offering to take me all the way from Vientiane to Bangkok.  The one I picked was only 600 Baht.

I was hungry so I went in search of some grub, all along the main street there are many restaurants, I found a place which had a burger and chips for about 100 Baht so I took this, I was on holiday so thought I deserve this as I won't be eating another burger for a long time.

I have a thing where I always get a tattoo of a country in the country by a person of that nationality, so this meant I had to get a Lao flag, in Lao by a Lao person.  Some people call me crazy but hey for me this is pretty cool!  So I got the tattoo, so over priced, the guy started off quoting me 300'000 Kip (269 Kip = 1 Baht), I was like you joking, he seemed pretty serious, I said 100'000 Baht, he laughed and saying things about ink expensive, blah blah blah, but he went down to 200'000 Kip, I was like hell no, I said to the Tuk tuk driver, lets go, so he dropped to 150'000 Kip, I was like 130'000 Kip and you have a deal, still a bit expensive for what I got though.  The tattoo came out good and is the brightest tattoo at the moment on my short line of flags.

After the tattoo, went back to Vientiane, I planned to see a few good places while I was here so I went to the tourist information centre.  The people in there were very helpful, they told me some great places to go to, how to go there and how much it would all cost.  Also the Internet there is free :D, I took full advantage of this!

I set off to the bus station as I needed to catch the number 14 bus as this was the bus to the Buddha Park, I had seen this place in my friends photo's and it looked cool so I wanted to see this place too.  I walked to the bus station because it was less 1km away and I wasn't paying overpriced tuk tuk drivers again!
The journey by bus there took about 45 mins, first we went into the boarder of Lao and went off again to the Buddha park.  The road after the boarder was fun to be on, it was full of potholes and the bus was bouncing all the way.  Whilst on the bus I met another foreigner, Tom.  He's really cool and it was a bonus I met him and made friends because we could take pictures for each other.

When arrived at Buddha park we purchased our tickets and photo ticket so we could take pictures.
As soon as I stepped into the park, I would call it more of a garden, I was taken back at how cool and beautiful this place was, I had seen it in pictures, but damn it was even better in real!
Myself and Tom went inside the big pumpkin shaped building, inside it had 3 levels with carvings of people and item representing 3 places, basement = death, ground = on earth, 1st floor = heaven.  From the top it you can see all of the Buddha park.  It's pretty amazing!!  We walked round all of the park taking different pictures of all the Buddha statues.

Top of this was damn high

Inside the Pumpkin

The random guy!

Pumpkin shaped building

Sleeping Buddha

Steep steps to the top!

Tom the guy I met on the bus (photo buddy)

After we headed back off to Vientiane by bus, again it was a rocky road back.

Found this on the door of my bathroom
Once in Vientiane Me and Tom agreed to meet up later in the day to have dinner with him and his friends and go out for a drink.  I went back to my hotel, showered. and chilled in my room for a while, watched some TV and then at 7:30pm left and went to the meeting place.

There I met shakira, Nick and Tom and we walked down the main road until we found an outside restaurant.  It had a big menu, we had quite a few different things, shared them together.  For what we had and the place it was in, it wasn't bad, 200'000 Kip split between 4 of us, so 50'000 Kip each.
Nick, Tom, Shakira, me

Tom looking for his bar
We left there and Tom wanted to find a bar which Tom claimed he knew and had been to before, we were walking around for about an hour, asking many different people, we had a map and in the end we couldn't find it. Nick left us to go home.  We went to a bar at 10:30pm, 30 minutes before closing and drank some beer Lao, myself 1 and Tom 2 and Shakira had a can of coke.  After this beer we all went our separate ways and went back to our hotels.
Having a drink
Famous Beer Lao

The next day I checked out of my hotel and bought a bicycle as this is the cheapest option, 10'000 Kip for a days rental, better than 26'000 Kip for 1 ride in a tuk tuk.  I went to many places and saved myself a lot of cash.  After renting the Bicycle I went towards the consulate, but before I went there I went to Victory Monument, this is a big arch you will pass every time you travel to Vientiane.  I ate breakfast here, it was really cheap too compared to all the other food, only 5000 Kip.  When you reach the top of Victory Monument it has really good views, however the inside has been spoilt with so many tourist stalls, the area could have been used to better use, such as another small museum.

Tacky tourist stalls

5000 Kip Noodles

I then travelled onto the consulate to collect my passport and NON-ED visa, I was nervous going up because I thought they wouldn't have given it to me, but once I saw it in my passport I was over the moon.

I got back on my bicycle and the next destination was the golden temple aka That Lung, I cycled there and it was about 1-2km from the consulate.  When I arrived I was impressed, it was really cool.  I was expecting this place to be really cool, but I went inside and it had a few old artifacts on the inside but apart from that it was nothing more.

So I got back on my bicycle and went of to Wat Sisaket, the same thing here I was expecting something cool, but it was a temple and just had the same Buddha's all around the inner walls of the temple.  The last Temple I visited was Hopprakaeo.  I thought this was the best of the 3, inside the temple it had a small museum, which I spent quite a while looking at.  And I found out this was the original place of the emerald Buddha which now in Wat Prakaeo in Bangkok.

writing about the emerald Buddha

Scrolls kept at Wat Sisaket


Hop Prakaeo
1 of the many Buddha inside Wat Sisaket

After all of this I was so hungry I could have eaten a chicken so that's what I did I went to Mc Cockney.  This place looked like a cheap version of KFC, but thought I would try it and it wasn't bad, the food was good, service good too.

Now it was time to go home, so I went back to the tourist agency and waited for the bus to come and pick me up.  When the vehicle arrived, which was a big size tuk tuk, I was thinking, ok no problem.  The journey to the boarder took about 30-60 minutes, can't remember, but what I can was being choked to death by fumes, for some reason the fumes from the exhaust were coming into the cabin all the people were sitting it, I would have rather sat on the top than breath in all the pollution.

Deadly fume van!

We finally got to the boarder and relief came over me, I hopped out and got as far away from that death machine as I could.  I was expecting everything to be paid for me till I arrived back in Bangkok, but no after I stamped out of Lao I came to the friendship bridge which I had to pay 40 Baht/9000 Kip for, this was unexpected and some people who were travelling with us had to borrow money from their friends to cover the cost.

We then were guided to a coach.  It was long wait, we waited beside the bus for 1 hour.  The bus started up and I then thought great we are leaving, the bus drove to the boarder gate and stopped and switched off the engine, I was like WTF, I sat on the bus hoping it was short, after 15 minutes I got off the bus and asked the driver what was going on, he said we were waiting for some more tourists, this was stupid.  After 1 hour of waiting in the heat the other bus with the other tourists came.  Everybody got on the bus, it started up and we all went to the Thai boarder, after filling in the arrival card I stamped into Thailand, quite happy everything with my visa had gone smoothly.


We were taken to a restaurant and given simple egg fried rice, this was a big bowl, so was enough for 2 helpings for everyone, about 30 people on this trip.

After finishing my food I got back on the bus.  I was quite tired from all my travelling in Vientiane so after about 30 minutes I fell asleep, I woke up at about 5am, not sure why, but at this time we were about 30 minutes from Mo chit, I stayed awake till we got to the destination, we didn't stop in Mo chit bus station because the driver was scared of getting fined for having Lao number plates, kind of agree with him, the corrupt police would have lapped this up and give him a nice fine!

Thai Police
As soon as we got off the bus there was 2 taxi drivers waiting to pounce, the guy was saying it would only cost 60 Baht to the BTS mo chit, so I said we go there with no meter on and I pay you 60 Baht, he said no, so I walked away, he was telling me in Thai the motorcycles will be same price, so I just went to them.

I took the BTS all the way back to Bearing BTS and took a motorcycle taxi back to the gym.  I arrived at the gym at about 7am.  I wasn't really tired, but took the day off training.

So here is a quick list of how much things will cost.

1 Baht = 269 Kip

  • Motorcycle ride from the gym to BTS Bearing = 15 Baht
  • BTS Bearing to BTS Asok = 25 Baht
  • 8 passport photo = 120 baht
  • 6 copies of passport = 12 Baht
  • MRT Sukhumvit to MRT Chatuchak Park = 33 Baht
  • Motorcycle taxi to Mo Chit bus station = 50 Baht
  • Bus ticket from Bangkok to Nongkhai = 450 Baht
  • MRT sukhumvit - chatuchak = 33 Baht
  • Boarder bus = 20 Baht
  • Friendship bridge = 10 Baht
  • Taxi to embassy + Vientiane = 300 Baht
  • Education visa = 2000 Baht
  • Hotel = 400 Baht
  • Ticket from Vientiane to Bankok = 600 baht
  • Tuk tuk to tatoo + back = 70'000 Kip
  • Tattoo = 130'000 Kip
  • Lunch = 34'000 Kip
  • Bus to Buddha park = 6'000 Kip
  • Buddha park entry + photo fee = 8'000 Kip
  • Bus to Vientiane = 6'000 Kip
  • Soap = 3;000 Kip
  • SD card = 450 Baht
  • Dinner = 50'000 Kip
  • Beer = 13'000 Kip
  • Milk = 3'000 Kip
  • Bike hire = 10'000 Kip
  • Arch entry = 5'000 Kip
  • Food = 5'000 Kip
  • Coco drink = 10'000 Kip
  • Entry gold temple = 5'000 Kip
  • Entry to Wat Sisaket = 5'000 Kip
  • Entry to Hopprakaeo = 5'000 Kip
  • Water = 3'000 Kip
  • Friendship boarder = 9'000 Kip
  • Motorcycle taxi from Mochit Bus station to Mo chit BTS = 60 Baht
  • BTS Mo chit to BTS Bearing = 40 Baht
  • Motorcycle taxi from Bearing BTS to the gym = 15 Baht