Unsurprisingly the train was late in to Ayutthaya. The late running of trains is so reliable that there’s a dedicated whiteboard at the information office with the actual expected times. The train was later than that. Without this and the attention of station staff we might have ended up on a train to Chang Mai or somewhere else if we had just used the times as a guide. The carriages also have boards on their sides saying where they’re going. The lateness just deprived me of a little more sleep. Once on the train though, its movement put me to sleep very quickly. But not before I was caught up in a swirl of conglomerated images. Temples when they were new, painted in the bright colours of the towns we’ve been going through, with elaborate gardens and modern pop music of the region.
The train stops at Nong Kai on the border with Laos. Friendly tuk tuk drivers are at the ready to take passengers to the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong. Our first tuk tuk ride and it wasn’t even scary. Through immigration and on to a bus to cross the bridge. It’s not a little bridge. Then Laos immigration. They process the applications for visa on arrival a bus load at a time so it takes a while. Some people were getting impatient but when you consider how many they needed to do, I thought they were pretty efficient. While we were looking lost at what to do, a fellow helped direct us to the right window. Of course he was a taxi driver and had won our loyalty so he ended up driving us to our hostel in Vientiane.
There’s something different about Vientiane that makes it more familiar. But the first thing that got me was driving on the wrong side of the road. The wrong way on roundabouts! Turning on to the wrong side of the road! My head struggled with the back-to-frontness. Later I realised what else has been disorienting me. I’m all upside down because the sun is in the south of the sky. I think I have east and west ok, but north and south are the wrong way around, or something. So I’ve decided no riding bikes or scooters until my head’s got that sorted.
There are more cars, and many more four wheel drives in Vientiane than the others places so far. The four wheel drives and more specifically their big chunky tyres may be a hint as to the road conditions out of town. We might find out but I doubt we’ll be going that far off the well worn tourist track. There seems to be more money around, although it could just be the part of town we’ve seen so far. And the head scarves on women have disappeared.
We were both pretty tired so took it easy for the afternoon with the knowledge that we’ll have another full day here. A wander round the corner to a vegan restaurant with mock meat dishes – the duck was great. A nap. A wander down to the markets along the Mekong in the evening. Again, evidence that there’s a bit more money at least in this part of town. Oh, and blokes contributing their trickles to the river banks.