11 August 2015

Crossing at Chong Mek into Laos

4.Apr.2015


Chong Mek Border Crossing

This was my experience of the immigration and customs procedures for a motor-biker (I presume the same will apply for car owners as well), moving from Thailand into Laos on 4.Apr.2015. This border crossing connects Highway 217 (Thailand) to Highway 16W (Laos).


I chose to go into Laos at the most southern border crossing because it was the most established crossing
between the two neighboring countries for a very long time until the other crossings became more popular.
An aerial view of the crossing point. The Thai complex in red highlight and the Laos complex in green highlight.
The Laos government were not too happy that the Thais chose to build their complex on the Lao side.

Other Thai-Laos Road Border Crossings

Listing from south to north, excluding crossings by boat are;
  1. Mukdahan & Savannakhet (Friendship Bridge 2)
  2. Nakhon Phanom & Thakhek (Friendship Bridge 3)
  3. Nong Khai & Vientiane (Friendship Bridge 1)
  4. Chiang Khong & Huay Xai (Friendship Bridge 4)

The Journey to Chong Mek

Starting from Ubon Ratchathani, my next destination for the day was Pakse. Along Highway 217, for about 30km to the border, was new triple lanes on each side with broad shoulders. Riding along this road was lovely especially passing the northern parts of Sirindhorn Lake.

Chong Mek Border Crossing
Beautiful & straight Highway 217 on the Thai side

At the end of Highway 217, a very impressive and uniquely designed immigration and customs complex will greet your eyes. There are shops lining the road leading to the Thai government complex.

Chong Mek Border Crossing
A view of Chong Mek town as seen from the Thai immigration complex

Chong Mek Border Crossing
A view of the immigration complex as seen from the Thai side
Chong Mek Border Crossing
The Thai Customs House for commercial vehicles

Chong Mek Border Crossing
After passing Thai immigration and customs, this was the view from the Lao side.
Cars and motorbikes uses the booths on vehicle lanes for passport and customs forms.
Since there were not many vehicles crossing so early in the morning, formalities were processed quite fast.

Documentation Required

  1. Passport & Entry Card into and out of country
  2. Valid Driving License (citizens of member ASEAN countries can use license issued by own country. Actually, they don't check your license at all.)
  3. Vehicle Registration Card (better to bring original otherwise photocopy will also do)
  4. 3rd party vehicle insurance (can buy around entry points)
  5. Simplified Customs Declaration Form for Temporary Import Permit for vehicle (Thai and Lao practice similar forms.)
  6. Permit for vehicles for driver at entry/exit. (Not required in south of Thailand but required here. It's a simple form as a declaration that the driver is bringing a vehicle into the country. If you did not get this form in southern Thailand, you can fill up this form when you exit Thailand at this place, but the officer will not like it.)

Payments

  1. Ah ha! At the Thai side, unlike the officers in southern Thailand, the Thai side did not charge "Overtime", if you know what that means!
  2. On the Lao side, hmmm...! The customs forms will cost you LAK10,000 (as per receipt) but you need to pay THB100. Bloody awful exchange rate. Then filling up the Entry Card and processing your passport will cost you another THB100. (This was small compared to my departure from Laos.)

Going over to the Lao side

The moment you crossed into Laos, unmaintained roads and dust greets you.

Also, do not forget that you'll be driving on the right side of the road when you cross over to Laos.

Chong Mek Border Crossing
Even though you can see officers here, this was not the processing centre.
The building under construction is the new Immigration & Customs House.

Chong Mek Border Crossing
This was the Lao Immigration and Customs House that I had to go.
The front part was the Visa application. I needed to go to the rear of the building for documentation.

Chong Mek Border Crossing
At the rear of the building was the Immigration Counter (left of photo)
and the Customs Counter (right of photo)

Chong Mek Border Crossing
At the rear of the building, in front of the Customs Counter were the booths selling vehicle insurance.

Chong Mek Border Crossing
Opposite the Immigration House was Phongsavanh Bank where you can exchange for Kip.
Don't remember seeing ATMs there.

On the Road to Pakse

Having cleared all the formalities and documentations, I proceeded to Pakse.

Chong Mek Border Crossing
Taxis awaiting customers. They transport cargo as well as passengers.

Chong Mek Border Crossing
Long line of container vehicles waiting to cross into Thailand

Chong Mek Border Crossing
Good road from the border towards Pakse for about 10 km. After that, the road was not so good.


In Summary

On the Thai side, the building, roads and facilities were well maintained and operating efficiently. The Lao side was a different matter. Long queues could be seen and the building looks old. Have in mind that Laos is still a Communist country and the people still have their old ways of doing things.

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23 May 2015

Kuang Si Waterfalls

18.Apr.2015

Kuangsi Waterfalls, Luang Prabang, Laos

One of the most beautiful multi-level waterfall in Laos.

The entrance to the park
Entrance Fees: Kip 20,000
The ticket was available at the counter of the building with the open window in the picture above.
No vehicles allowed into the park except authorised ones.
Remember to bring your swim-wear. The water is cool, not cold.

The Legend of Kuangsi Waterfalls

According to a local legend, a long time ago, a wise old man dug a deep hole and out flowed the Nam Si River. A while later, a beautiful golden deer made its home under a big boulder that protruded from the falls. The sound of the water falling on this bolder created an enchanting echo that drew people from as far away as China to this site.
Tat Kuang Si got its name from this legend. Tat means waterfall. Kuang means deer. Si means dig.
The big boulder was dislodged in December 2001 after an earthquake.

A signboard of the map of the park
Based on this map, I used the path, marked with black dots over yellow line, from point 1 up to point 4. The area marked in red indicates the Bear Rescue Centre, which I didn't enter because I was too early. I arrived at this park before 8 AM. Already in the park were a few people who entered the park before me.

You will enter the waterfall area after passing the Bear Rescue Centre
This is the lowest part of the waterfalls after passing the signboard.
Note: The bridge shown here was closed.
This photo was taken from the bridge that was closed.
No one saw me, so I squeeze through the grill gate.
Referring to the photo above, this photo was taken from the tree hidden by the bamboo trees.
About 100 meters from the earlier spot, I took this shot.
As I moved towards point 4, another lovely shot.
A picnic area near the lake.
Another lovely spot to swim.
A nice spot for photography
A small fall feeding the main falls.
Almost near the point 4 is this water-wheel
At Point 4, the main waterfall flows majestically down multi layers of boulders.
That's me appreciating the beauty of the waterfall
This photo was taken from the end of the bridge.
As I walked back to the main entrance gate, I spotted this mile stone marker.
Leaving the park, I passed through this small village located at the entrance of the park.
Further on down this road, you can visit the butterfly park.

SUMMARY


Kuangsi Waterfalls is a "must see attraction" if ever you visit Luang Prabang. Budget about 3 hours, at least, to enjoy the place. Travel time from Luang Prabang by taxi is about 45 minutes. I came here by scooter with the help of Google Map. It is quite easy to locate this park.

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19 May 2015

Thalad Park

29.Mar.2015

Thalad Park, Nakhon Si Thammarat

Talad Park, also called “Somdet Phra Sri Nakharin 84 Park”. This park covers an area of over 490 acres. It was originally part of Ratcharuedi Park during the time of King Rama V. The park has an open zoo, a bird park, a health park, and a lake which is home to waterfowls that migrate here during January to March every year.

The signage in the center of the park
Also known as Somdet Phra Sinagarindra 84 Park in Google Map

Southern Entrance Area

Kuan In monument
a small stupa
Stone carvings of Buddha
Buddhist monument
A section of the lake at the south side

Centre of the park

City Pavilion [the sun was behind the building]
At the children's playground
At the children's playground
At the children's playground
At a picnic area near a lake
Water activities at another lake
Yet another lake in the park
a stunt rider practising for the big biker event a few weeks later

Same rider and bike super-imposed
At the pony ride area

The northern part of the park have not been really developed except for a building there. Used mainly by cyclist and joggers.

SUMMARY

A lovely place to spend quality time with family and loved ones.

Note: Photos are my copyright.

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