Apparently trying to deal with customs without anything more than hand language is quite difficult. Who woulda guessed?
The most freqeunted entry point into Lao is via a ‘friendship’ bridge at Nong Khai(T)/Vientiantene(L). I overnighted in Nong Khai in the hopes I could use this super easy entry point and simply ride my bike into Lao. The bridge has had a finicky past with the allowance of two wheeled traffic. Laws and regulations in Lao are subject to change on the whim, but the steadfast law on the bridge has always been, traffic is restricted to cars only. I recnely heard online that the law had changed and now bikes were being let through no problem. I figured I’d give it a try so I stopped by the customs office at the bridge and everything seemed like it would go smoothly. They started filling out paperwork, but as soon as they saw the engine size of my bike they bawked. Apparently, travel is restricted to bikes over 250cc. From what I can figure, if they allowed any bike entry they’d be flooded with an armada of locals on scooters daily. Allowing big bikes (aka tourists) through is a good middle ground. Unfortunately my wimpy little bike won’t do. Back to the drawing board.
After a bit of research I found a boat border crossing only 120km downstream from Nong Khai. I hopped on my bike and within the hour I was in Buen Kang scoppin’ the situation. I stopped by the immigration office which told me to go just ‘600m’ down the street to the customs office. After asking around a few official looking offices I got a hand drawn map; turns out the customs office was actually 5km away. Once arriving at the customs office I was informed that I need to go to the ‘new customs’ office 1km down the road. At the ‘new customs’ office literally no one speaks English, they took me around in what I thought was an attempt to find an english speaker, but now I realize it was just so everyone could laugh at the stupid falang. After about 30 minutes of useless beauricratic chatter they informed me that I needed a declaration of vehicle form which can only be obtained at the vehicle registration building 10km away. They proceeded to draw me a map which consisted simply of two intersecting lines. Despite the intricate detail involved in the map, read sarcasm, it took ten minutes of discussion and planning to draw. Somehow, probably by the hand of god, I found the vehicle registration office. After a 20 minute google translate session and the aid of their ‘top English speaker’ I made no headway and they understood nothing except that I had a green book for a bike. I reiterated that I’m trying to take a bike to Lao, and their faces lit up with understanding. Just when I think I’ve finally got it figured out they start drawing a map. Shit. They refer me back to the customs office and send me on my way. Now that I’ve entered the beauricratic loop I know I’m fucked. I conceded and made my way back to Nong Khai.
My new plan is to make my way to the coast, but the route I took in the hopes of getting into Lao is now ass backwards. Since my visa expires in two days I have no other option than to go to Lao for a visa extension. I locked my bike up at a local hotel and crossed the friendship bridge by foot. Now I’m in Lao for an indeterminate amount of time, with no bike. I feel naked, trapped and constrained without my wheels. I hope I can beat this funk I’m in. I’ll be back in Thailand soon enough.