From Thailand to Laos: Across the Friendship Bridge

Posted: June 10, 2010 in Cycle touring Rte 13 Northern Laos 2008
Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday November 6, 2008, 34 km (21 miles) – Total so far: 34 km (21 miles)

Old Nong Khai

After a heavy rainstorm last night that threatened to blow off all the roofs in Nong Khai, we awoke to beautiful clear blue skies and intense UV. Messing about with sunblock was a small price to pay for a great day out with the camera and our short ride into Vientiane. Last night’s rain was the first and only wet weather we had on this trip. Bring on the blue skies and sunshine, Laos. We managed 10 kms seeing the town, plus the 24 or so kms into Vientiane.

Then there’s the bridge, built with Aussie help ie. funds, and opened by then PM, Paul Keating in April 1994. The bridge, all 1200 metres of it, is narrow. Cars overtaking bicycles are OK. Trouble is, though Laos being the fourth poorest country on earth, has increasing numbers of Hummers, Land Cruisers and other large SUVs. Thais travel in huge vans and buses across the bridge. The rail line in the center of the bridge now extends into Lao territory, and is set to operate by March 09.

Official policy on cycling across the bridge is confusing at best. Mostly ‘NO’ if you ask. The Lao side has bicycle lanes at it’s immigration. The Thai side doesn’t, and many a cyclist have been frowned upon entering the Thai side of the bridge by bike. We hustle across Thai immigration and customs and make a run for it passing by some Thai customs ladies tucking into lunch. The one that wasn’t eating raised her voice. We smile and keep pedaling. I’m on official duty taking pictures for CGOAB and bike on a bus is not an option.

Sharing a romantic evening with Lonely Planet finds by a fountain

We get into town for a late lunch at Joma Bakery. Heavenly mushroom quiche and iced cappuccino freeze. Met up with Joma’s country manager, Miss Nang, a Bangkok native who made bookings on our behalf on Lao Airlines, for the next day’s flight to Luang Prabang.

Most of the town’s hotels were full, seeing that Nov 12 was the date for the week long That Luang festival at the country’s most revered temple, That Luang.

KG kept an eye on our bikes parked outside. Alvin took care of the air tickets, while I rode off to find a room for the night. Errands done in 40 minutes or so.

Lao Airlines does accept on line bookings, when their website is working, and Alvin has Church contacts with Joma’s CEO owner. We are well connected, and by the end of the trip I have 7 Joma reciepts in my wallet.

We check into the Mali Namphu guesthouse whose rates have inflated 75% in 20 months. Alvin remembers it best for an episode in which his friend lost a helmet whilst the bike was locked in the hotel’s elegant Parisian inspired courtyard.

‘Aggro Paul’ or easily aggravated Paul, now a sheep breeder in Queensland, Australia kicked up such a ruckus at the lobby until a sheepish (pun intended) hotel employee brought out the said bike helmet and placed it back onto it’s rightful owner’s handlebar. Though it was just a $20 knock off Giro helmet, the lesson to be learnt here is, not to mess around with all 6 ft 2 inches of Aggro Paul.

  1. Julian says:

    I rode my bike from Thailand to Lao this past weekend (16/07/10). I asked the the Thai immigration officer if I could ride the Friendship Bridge and he said yes. I had absolutely no problems taking my bike in to Lao or riding across the bridge … also no problems coming back (18/07/10). Furthermore, I was not asked to pay an entrance or exit fee. J


  2. ChrisW says:

    Glad you had a hassle free crossing !


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