Vientiane is the capital of Laos and, unlike Luang Prabang, can be accurately described as a city. It sits on the banks of the Mekong, with Thailand on the other side, meaning it receives a lot of one day visitors renewing Thai visas. We spent a few days here seeing the sights, but for us it didn’t have the same charm and character as Luang Prabang, and though our stay was pleasant enough we were happy to move on.
After two visits to the Thai Consulate, and enduring its baffling queueing system, we succeeded in obtaining Thai visas and were ready to continue. Following a morning visit to the dilapidated local bowling alley (which felt like a time warp to the 1980s) we made our way to Thanaleng rail station, 13km outside the city. From here you stamp out of Laos, and board a 15 minute shuttle train which runs across the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge to Nong Khai station. This is usually a road bridge, but when the train runs the traffic is stopped at either end to let it pass. At Nong Khai station we were stamped into Thailand, and then boarded a overnight sleeper train to Bangkok. This was a real luxury after all the terrible sleeper buses, and we enjoyed a relatively comfortable nights sleep in our bunks.
After several months in Asia, we have succumbed to the common travellers ailment of ‘temple fatigue’, and so in Bangkok we were determined to steer clear of religious buildings. We took a long trip on the river ferry (a great way to avoid the notorious Bangkok road traffic) and then a taxi to reach the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Bangkok’s answer to the Tate Modern. MOCA only opened in 2012 and is housed in an impressive building which sees surprisingly few visitors, perhaps due to its location. It was really refreshing to spend an afternoon here, and even the long journey on its own would have been worthwhile to see the different sides of the city. We also visited the Museum of Siam, a brilliantly interactive museum which focuses on Thai history and heritage.
Our arrival in Bangkok marked the halfway point of our trip, and also a (metaphorical) change in direction. So far we have been purely travelling, and barring a week in Hampi we have not done any rock climbing. Whilst we’ve had a fantastic time, we’ve both found the lack of climbing difficult and have felt the effect on our bodies (that, and all the street food!). We are moving on to Krabi next, Thailand’s best known climbing destination, where we will stay for 4 weeks. We are both very excited about starting to climb again, though also prepared for a few ego-denting weeks whilst we get back into it! Our next stops after Krabi are New Zealand and Australia, where climbing will continue to be a major focus (apologies in advance to our non-climbing readers).
We have had an incredible 5 months, full of memories and experiences – from getting engaged in the Mongolian wilderness, to scaling mountains in the Nepalese Himalaya, to kicking back on a beautiful Cambodian beach. We can’t wait to see what the next 5 months have in store…