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Travel Kunming - Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia

Kunming Travel Blog

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As my past post explained our visas are stopping us from using up our return flight to Bangkok (for now). I thought I would blog my findings on how to get into China from Thailand without flying. As far as I know it is totally possible to get from Thailand to China without going through Laos. This is useful if you:

1. don't want to get a Laos visa
2. don't want to stay in a rat infested bungalow
3. don't want to travel overland through Laos on bumpy roads

Not that I have actually done this trip, but I did spend 3 days researching it. Here is how you can make the journey avoiding Laos, the costs are converted to Chinese Renminbi:

- Bangkok - Chiang Mai. Overnight bus or train, about 156.
- Chiang Mai - Chiang Saen. Bus about 4 hours, local transport so don't know cost, probably not much.
- Chaeng Saen - JingHong 850. Boat. Note that this is a pretty expensive boat trip and drives the cost up considerably (the total cost for this adventure is still much less than flying though). These speedboats tend to be run by the Chinese. The boat goes up the Mekong from Chiang Saen in Thailand, then between Laos and Burma until China. There are mixed reports about these boats, the boat company I talked in Kunming assured me the trip could be done in 6 hours, but I have read other peoples expereinces of this taking 3 days to one week! Perhaps this is the case if you take a cargo boat, this can organised in 
Chiang Saen and is cheaper but in no way comfortable. The cargo boats sometimes get stuck when water is low too.
- Jinghong - Kunming. Bus 190. Its a long journey, maybe 8 hours
(guessing - I dont know). There are plenty of buses going to Jinghong.
Total cost 1196 (not included local bus between Chiang Mai and Chiang Saen) thats about 120 pounds.

Compare this to the flight from Bangkok, the cheapest I was quoted was 1800 through a local travel agency in kunming, online prices were about 2500. So this journey would be cheaper and more interesting, but keep in mind if you really wanted an adventure shoestring style, the cargo boat would drive the cost down more.

We also researched going through Vietnam. Again there are many mixed reports about getting to vietnam from Kunming. We heard that there was a train going from the northeren railway station near our home to Vietnam. Since we could hear the train we believed this information. Not so, the train is for freight only. It is a mystery to me why this train cant take people. This train was out of service for a long time due to mudslides but now it seems the train is running again, but not for passengers, its a real shame. You can take the bus instead to Vietnam border and from there continue on a bus or take a Vietnamese train. The problem with this is the bus to Vietnam has a few scare stories of thefts and bag razoring. And the bathroom on the bus apparently has to be seen to be believed, a squat with no door, nice!

So if public peeing is your thing get the bus from Kunming to Hekou, 128. A visa for Vietnam is 400. Then from Hekou - Hanoi. Bus, 239, though I heard the train is cheaper at only 116. Then it's a hectic mission to get down the coast of Vietnam by train from Hanoi to Saigon. I have no idea how long this takes but it can be done, you need to buy seperate tickets for each leg, so for example...Hanoi - Hue 191, then Hue - Saigon - 287 (which is probably way to much travel on a train and the journey should definitely be broken up more, but this is just for approximate cost purposes). Then there is no train from Saigon to Cambodia but a bus: Saigon - Phnom Penh 82. Cambodia visa 300 (depends on what happens at the border). Total cost  1501, again cheaper than flying, but not much! And you need at least a week.

A helpful site for figuring this out is
seat61 which has information about trains for every country that has trains.
countessk says:
No no, not illegal at all. The speedboats let you do the usual customs stuff where you exit Thailand and enter China. The speedboats have a proper system for this as passengers (mostly Chinese) are doing this almost every day. The cargo boats sound way more complicated, I doubt there is much assistance going through customs, depends how helpful the random fisherman is.
Posted on: Mar 01, 2009
wsquare says:
this sounds like an adventure in making. but, would you be caught by coastal guards on speedboat to Kunming from thailand, and be placed behind bars?? If it is legally possible,just more of adrenaline booster,yah definitely interesting!
Posted on: Feb 17, 2009
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