Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Less Than 60 Days

This is another of those trips where I have to plan months before with limited resources (by this I mean money), depending wholly on my monthly salary (as I didn't save much) and no travel-mate to share the planning tasks. There was one guy, however who wanted to join but I decided to do this solo for reasons unbeknownst to everyone but me. *sorryyy*

Created using Photoscape. 
Less than 60 days and I have yet to do the following (on hold as I currently don't have the money. Haha)  :
  1. Train ticket within Russia (to be bought from here -- http://pass.rzd.ru/ ).
  2. Invitation letter from Russia (could be done here)
  3. Russia Visa Application (need to visit the Russian Embassy in KL)
  4. Travel Insurance (planning to buy this one -- ace travel insurance) 
  5. Figuring all the transportation from airports to city (this is gonna be tricky)
  6. Have to deal with a lot of currencies -- Russian rubles, Euros, Danish Krones, Norwegian Krones, Swedish Krones, British Pounds, Polish Zloty.
  7. Figuring out where to STAY at all the cities though I haven't started looking for couchsurfing hosts. Maybe 2 weeks before flying? :)
  8. Bring ENOUGH CASH as I still don't have a credit card. :P
  9. Last but not the least.... APPLY LEAVE FROM THE OFFICE!! Holy molly! Haven't applied yet! 
With all that in mind, I don't know how to concentrate on work. Hahaha. *sorry boss*

And so I finally updated my blog. Phew!!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

From Thailand to Laos on a Sleeper Train

I rested a few days at home after my HK-China-Macau trip before flying off again. This time it was to fulfill my dream to visit Laos as I had to cancel my trip last year due to work.

My friend was heading to Laos too so I decided to join him even-though his trip will only end up to Vientiane while I'd be traveling to Luang Prabang on my own. Direct flight to Vientiane from Kuala Lumpur was pricey during that time, so I opted to fly in to Bangkok where I'll meetup with my travel mate. It was planned that I'd buy the sleeper train tickets to Nong Khai from Dom Meaung Bangkok train station. And from Nong Khai we'll cross the friendship bridge into Laos. Double passport stamps!

Annoying travel-mate with our main transport in Vientiane. 
Annoying how?

I actually have a number of nicknames for my annoying travel-mate Alid, such as hunchback, devil of Jawa, heartless, animal-phobic, Mr Narsis.. yeah.. to name a few (hope he doesn't read this post). He's only made tolerable because in return he tolerates my annoying traits. :)

This is how my route went for the next five days or so. I didn't know that I was coming to Laos during the final days of their Buddha year and as a bonus, I personally experienced their pre-Songkran festival which is celebrated every year from April 14 to April 16. The celebration coincides with the hottest time of the year in Laos! Normally, Songkran or Lao New Year is celebrated for 3 days but can last for more than a week in towns like Luang Prabang.

The route I took from Thailand to Laos.
I resided the upper bunk of a sleeper train from Bangkok to Nong Khai for less than 700 Bahts. The journey took the whole night before reaching its destination the next morning. I've noticed that the upper bunks are relatively more cheaper than the lower bunks because it was windowless. Bummer, I won't be able to gaze out the window and enjoy the view. Alid was given a bunk bed in another carriage. Thankful for that, I can now eat my snacks without sharing (eh).

Overnight on a sleeper train was actually my second experience after India. My first in a ASEAN country. There was a pillow and packed blankets on my bunk as I climbed my way on it, making it quite a comfortable ride. I peeped through the curtains that I pulled covering my area and saw a guy with a tattooed arm staring back at me. I blushed and pulled the curtains to a close. Being certain that no-one was gonna see me, I pulled off my hijab and fell asleep to the lulling sound of the moving train. 
The waterfront of Vientiane facing the shallow Mekong River
I really can't say much on the ride as I slept all through the night. Haha!

The next morning, I was surrounded by noises as people around me started to stir and folding their upper bunk beds. I too decided to do the same and sat with a local Laos guy whom I saw last night. The window was open and sun rays were beginning to creep in. I forgot the guy's name as we shared stories. I was never good in remembering names. Sigh.

He was working in Bangkok in a french embassy. Having acquired an interest in learning the foreign French language, he was easily employed there. What surprised me the most was that he has never been to France itself to test his skills! Or none to the neighboring countries for that matter except Thailand as he thought it was expensive! Haha! I spent the whole time before reaching our destination, convincing him that he was wrong and that he should at least try traveling via AirAsia. :)

Upon touching down Nong Khai and reuniting with Alid, he helped us on where to board a motorized tuk tuk to the border. We parted ways soon after as the Laotian guy had to do some shopping there while Alid and I headed to Laos. From the Thai border, we had to go through immigration before hopping on another bus to get to the Laos side. The funny thing is.. if you don't ask for the immigration form from the counter (which is free!), you'd have to pay for it from some guys who were selling it around. -__-

Thankfully we asked first. Why do they have to sell the forms? Why aren't there any signs saying that the forms should be taken from the counter? Kan susahkan orang begitu! 

After immigration was cleared from both sides, we then headed to our fist destination. It somewhat become a habit of mine that I let Alid to do all the itinerary plans while I'd just follow. This was maybe our fourth trip together? Forgot, heh! Tambahan aku malas mau fikir. Muahaha! 

So if you're traveling with Alid, be ready to drag your large backpack around as that's his style. There's no checking into accommodations to keep your bags first when the tourist attraction is just within reach from the arrival point. So yeahh... what he plans to go, I follow! Next stop is....... on my next blogpost!