Got into Mukdahan at 5:00 this morning. As it turned out the bus ride wasn’t as bad as I expected. On slept most of the journey; I think I might have managed an hour or two. Most of the time I just looked out the window.
When we get to Mukdahan, the bus terminal is closed, (even the bathrooms are locked until 6:00) but there’s a woman at the back of the terminal selling coffee, cold drinks and some snacks snacks to tide arriving passengers over until the terminal opens in about two hours. That’s when we will be able to get on the bus bound for Savannakhet, Laos. Depending on how many people are taking the first bus across Friendship Bridge 2, it shouldn’t take no more than an hour or two to get do the immigration formalities on both sides of the bridge.
I will also be getting a visa on arrival, so I will have to fill out a form and submit two photos along with 1,500 Baht (approximately $35.00) for the visa.
The bus station slowly comes to life as more buses arrive from Bangkok and other provincial towns. There’s also a steady procession of tuk-tuks—a modified version of the three wheeled, motorized vehicles you would see plying the streets in Bangkok—bringing passengers to the terminal.
I am wondering if the border crossing here is going to be anything like how it was when I went to Cambodia last October. That was pretty intense, especially coming back into Thailand when it took almost three hours to complete the immigration formalities—maybe not because there are more ways to cross into Laos from Thailand.
At 7:00 On and I buy our tickets to Savannakhet. They are only 50 Baht each. It’s a good thing we got in line early because all the seats on the first bus to Savannakhet are sold out immediately. Being it’s Monday morning, there are a lot of foreigners doing a visa run to the Thai embassy in Savannakhet. Some tour operators move to the front of the line and buy up blocks of tickets for people having to do visa runs.
Once we buy our tickets, we are able to board the bus. Good thing. The bus fills up fast with people even standing in the aisle. The bus is supposed to leave at 8:00, but there are too many people on the bus, so all the people standing are asked to get off the bus and board another one. Finally, around 8:30, our bus departs.
It’s only about a ten-minute drive to the immigration checkpoint on the Thai border. Unlike Poi Pet along the Thai/Cambodian border with people coming and going left and right, here everything seems more orderly with people coming by bus and then going through the immigration formalities. Everyone gets off the bus, goes through immigration, and then walks to a waiting area to wait for the bus. As soon as everyone has gone through immigration the bus comes and everyone gets back on.
The same thing is repeated across Friendship Bridge 2 on the Laos side of the Mekong with everyone getting off the bus and going through immigration in Laos. If you don’t have a visa, no problem. You can get one there right on the spot. Just make sure you have some passport size photos of yourself. I filled out a form, paid 1,500 Baht and within 15 minutes I had my visa and went through immigration.