As customary, there were monks doing their morning alms around the city. From my hotel, I hopped to a small Chinese restaurant at the corner of Srinarong and Luang, partaking on ham and eggs (40B). This spare breakfast would eventually catch up with me so I walked to the nearby 7-11 for a 24 baht sausage-and cheese bread to takeout. It would be my second day in Ubon Ratchathani (Southern Isaan, Thailand) and though I was leaving it with a few unfinished business in mind, I was contented knowing that I’ll be coming back to further acquaint myself with the Moon River after seeing South Laos. Meanwhile, I had to get to the bus terminal to buy my ticket. Last night, I was advised to come an hour early before the 9:30 AM departure. It’s odd though that they don’t entertain pre-booked tickets since this is, after all, an international journey (In fact, they require your passport when you’re buying your ticket).
A novice doing his morning alms alone.
Ham and egg (above) at a Chinese restaurant (below) near Krungtung Hotel along Srinarong Road.
Fire Station along Srinarong Road on my way back to my hotel.
Taxi to the bus terminal
Ubon Ratchathani Bus Terminal. The assigned platforms are located at each side of this hallway.
The lone counter for the international bus to Pakse. Strictly no pre-booked tickets. You have to purchase on the day of the departure.
Chongmek, according to online travel site “Tripwolf”, is an interesting border town east of Ubon with an extraordinary attempt at post-modern architecture in the form of the frontier station – giant purple juxtaposed slabs extend into the sky, thus my kite-like description. There is a large Thai-Lao market selling food (including baguettes), baskets, clothes and basic manufactured goods, as well as some ‘antiques’ and wild animal products from Laos.
Moreover, there’s a plethora of army surplus stalls here making it a good place to pick up bargain strides and T-shirts. Even those without entry visas for Laos are supposedly allowed to cross the Thai border and mosey around the market, but I wouldn’t try this.
There’s a Vang Tao sub-branch of the Lao Development Bank where you could change your dollar to Lao kip. Though conscious of its not so favorable rate (not all that bad, to be honest), I changed $50 (the universally accepted exchange rate is $1 = 8,000 kip). I was conveniently richer by 400,000 kip – and mentally decided to exchange more when I’m in Pakse. I just needed local money just in case.
Chongmek, a Thai border town.
Chongmek Border Post - post-modern design: a space ship? A kite? This photo only courtesy of Panoramio's pr8ngkiet.
At the border, you will get off your bus and proceed to the immigration building to be stamped out of Thailand. You bus, meanwhile, will drive past this border gate. It will wait for you at the other side. Processing of visa will take 10 to 20 minutes. For Filipinos and other visa-free citizens, stamping out won't even take 5 minutes.
Chongmek Custom House. It stands across the border post, but you won't need to get here if you're just a tourist.
Entrance to the Chongmek Border Post.
There are about 3 or 4 immigration counters inside the Chongmek Border Post. Some counters are for locals, others for foreign nationals. Photography is strictly prohibited here (and there are signs everywhere) thus I had to turn the flash off, i.e. blurred photo.
Once you're stamped out of Thailand, you'll get out from this building and proceed to the gates below for your entry to Laos.
From the gate above, you will find this dirt road. It's a 100 meter walk towards Laos' Vangtao Border Post. There are stalls selling fruits like apples, grapes, oranges, etc.
Lao Development Bank will change your dollars to the kip, Laos' local currency.
HUFFING AND PUFFING AMERICAN
Vangtao's immigration counters (above and below)
Walking away from the more modest Vangtao border post.
A market just across the border post in Vangtao, Laos.
Fruits in Vangtao, Laos
My international bus from Ubon. At this time, we were waiting for most Caucasians securing their visas on arrival.
Tuktuk at the VIP Bus Terminal
Imoun Homestay and Restaurant at Ban Pakhuaydeau which is practically beside the Mekong.
My bedroom at the 2nd floor. The adjoining room had a smaller bed, and both beds were mine. :) The rooms in Imoun were all fan rooms, but I've earlier thought of the weather. At night, it got so cold I had to turn the fan off when I woke up shivering despite using the two blankets provided.
Complimentary welcome gifts: a mineral water and what Por called Kaoman (although she didn't tell me it was actually food). I was able to ask later.
Taking a bite at my kaoman.
For more complete information, here's my border crossing back to the Vangtao (Laos) - Chongmek (Thailand) boundary posts after my visit in Pakse and the Champasak Province:
Map of the Chongmek-Vangtao border