Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Border hopping


For several hundred miles, the Mekong river acts as the border between Laos and Thailand. For most of this part of my Mekong trip, I stayed on the Lao side of the border, but for a few days at the end of June I crossed over to Thailand, partly to get a new Lao visa, and partly just to see the other side of the river.  Although there is a ferry service connecting the two sides, this now seems to be reserved for Lao and Thai nationals only. Everyone else has to travel by road, across one of the impressive new Friendship Bridges spanning the river.  From Tha Khaek in southern Laos, I took the bus (along with a boisterous extended Vietnamese family) to Nakhon Phanom in Thailand, where I stayed for a few days before travelling downriver to Mukdahan for a night, from where I crossed back into Laos via a different bridge, travelling on to Savannakhet.  I’ve written before about how countries along the Mekong gradually merge into one another in border regions, and these riverside towns were another example of that,  although the Thai side was noticeably busier and more prosperous.  These pictures were all taken in Tha Khaek, Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan.

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3 Responses to “Border hopping”

  1. angelinahue

    When I was there in 2009, we crossed the Mekong via the boat – like with everyone else – from Nakhon Phanom to Tha Khaek. We got our visas (I’m Singaporean and my boyfriend’s American) on arrival at the latter. But it looks like this is no longer the case with the new bridges?

    • Jon Sanwell

      Yes, it seems that only Thai and Lao nationals can cross by boat now. But the international bus service over the bridges is pretty quick and efficient, and you can still get visas on arrival.

      • angelinahue

        Good to know. Would like to visit Laos again… though now that I’m living in Europe, it’s a bit far! Many fond memories of travelling through Laos, starting with Tha Kheah, then on to Khammaoune, Vientiane and Luang Prabang, before travelling along the Mekong to Chiang Rai and Chiang Kong in Thailand : )

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