Bangkok to Vientiane
23.10.1966 - 25.10.1966
Last night we thanked our hosts for their hospitality, said “Goodnight, see you in about two weeks” and went to bed. We were up again at 4.30am, took only our lightweight dilly bags and slipped out. The houseboy came down to the corner with us and helped us get a taxi to the station. At 6.10am the train left. The carriage was quite good - in fact the best 3rd Class we had come across except for Iran. It was an all day journey, 6.10am to 7.30pm. I was amazed at the array of food available at the stations along the way. Apart from mountains of rice and a wide variety of curries, there was all sorts of fruit, both familiar and unfamiliar, sweets, and delicious looking roast chicken splayed on bamboo skewers; after our Indian diet, a feast for the eye and the stomach, if you have the money, although prices were quite fair. The scenery was pretty monotonous, green paddies all the way, though for a distance outside Bangkok it was interesting as there were canals (klongs) everywhere, and the villages were either groups of houses on stilts above the water or built on slightly higher ground. All the traffic was water traffic, mostly canoes or small motorized longboats. People even had to reach the railway stations by boat, alighting at a landing attached to the platform. Lotus flowers abounded, along with vermilion robed monks.
At sunset we came to the big American airforce base at Udon Thani. The sunset was brilliant, a fiery red glow low on the horizon, like an enormous bushfire. Tall radar towers were silhouetted against this red background, and a supersonic jet bomber circled overhead while a Hercules transport came in to land. It is from here that the planes take off to bomb North Vietnam. The inferno like sunset, as if the bowels of the earth were on fire and erupting, plus the grey ominous clouds in the upper sky, seemed to me a fitting background for this nucleus of destructive force. Soon after, we reached Nong Khai, on the banks of the Mekong and the jumping off point for Vientiane, on the other side, a bit further upstream.
POSTCARD FROM LAOS
Greetings from Vientiane, Laos. Crossed the Mekong River this morning by longboat from Thailand. Leave 26th for grueling land journey to Cambodia. At present only 300 miles from Hanoi. Love John
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Sunrise over the Mekong at Nong Khai
Mekong river boats
Waiting to cross from Thailand to Laos
Looking down the main avenue in Vientiane to the Anosavari (memory) Monument, still under construction
(above & below) Central markets, Vientiane
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