Thailand is a great country, it really is and I love it, but sometimes I just want to get out of there and with Thailand being centered amongst four other countries with a lot to offer, it would be a waste not to take the opportunity and visit them.
Thailand borders

Taking a plane is often the easiest way to go, but it’s not the only option, especially if you’re on a tour across the region. The big advantage of going by land is that it will take you to places, you would normally not go. That can be a bad or good thing depending on how you look at it, but last time we went to the eastern part of Thailand, we combined it with a trip to Cambodia over land and it was great.

It was convenient and we had a great time. It was more rewarding than we anticipated and we managed to add some fun memories of stopping over to buy some fruit from a farmer along the rice fields, the funny jokes of our driver, and just looking at the picturesque scenery along the roads.
Then when I think about traveling by plane, all I can think of is sitting with boredom for hours and waiting in lines.

From Thailand, you can visit the following countries: Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia. From Laos, you can then easily travel a bit further to get into Vietnam.

LAOS

The Mekong River is creating a natural border between a large part of Thailand and Laos and there are several so-called Thai-Lao Friendship Bridges to get across. It is also possible to take a ferry across the river but most of the ferry border crossings are for Thai and Laos locals only.

Nong Khai -Thanaleng Border Crossing

This Friendship Bridge connects Nong Khai with Vienttiane. To get to the border crossing from Bangkok you can take the train (standard seat or private cabin for 2), or the bus. Both these options take at least 10 hours. Once past the border, you would still need to take a taxi or something similar to get to the city. Vientiane also has its own airport with a direct connection from Bangkok.
thai lao friendship bridge

The Nong Khai-Thanaleng Friendship bridge. Photo taken by Jim Holmes under the creative commons license.

Where to go next:
Not much to do in Vientiane unless you like endless sitting in ice cream shops and chilling at the small parks. For a more touristy type of destination you can take the bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng. But be warned you will get from extreme slow atmosphere to an extreme busy atmosphere.
Vang Vieng is a tourist magnet and is filled with rowdy tourists, loud pubs and street merchants. The scenery around the small city is nice with rolling hills and the Nam Song river, so a lot of tourists like this place, but to us it felt like a tourist trap.

Mukdahan – Savannakhet Border Crossing

This Friendship Bridge connects Mukdahan with Savannakhet. To get to the border crossing from Bangkok you can take the bus which will take at least 10 hours. Savannakhet also has its own airport so another option is to fly there from Bangkok.

Where to go next:
While there are some ruins and small temples to behold in Savannakhet, perhaps the biggest reason to cross the border at this place is to continue traveling to Vietnam. A decently comfortable enough bus leads you from the Thai-Laos border all the way to Hue in Vietnam which is about seven hours to the east by said bus.
Hue is a small but charming city in Vietnam where you can see some great architecture and the surrounding area is filled with some beautiful old palaces.
kids asia

Some kids selling snacks on the way to the border.

Chiang Khong – Huay Xai Border Crossing

This is the Friendship Bridge in the far north of Thailand and close to Chiang Rai. From Chiang Rai it takes about 2 hours by bus to get to the border.

Where to go next:
Take the slow boat to Luang Prabang. The boat ride will take 2 days 1 night with a stop at Pakbeng and is the best way to enjoy the scenery of the Mekong River.
Luang Prabang itself is a bit touristy but with a relaxed atmosphere and nice surroundings.

Cambodia

Aranyaprathet / Poipet border crossing:

Cambodia Thailand border

photo taken by James Antrobus under the creative commons license.

If your starting point is Bangkok or Pattaya, then the most traveled route is taking one of the many busses or minivans going to the Aranyaprathet border crossing. Many bus companies organize trips catered to foreigners who need to get to Cambodia for a Visa run. Those border runners can extend their Thai Visa at the Thai immigration offices in Cambodia.
This trip done from Bangkok takes about 8 hours.

Where to go next:
Most visitors to Cambodia will move on to Siem Reap and then visit the famous Angkor Wat.
If ancient ruins don’t fit your taste, you might be interested in the blog written by Isabel who visited the small province Kampot in the South of Cambodia.

Cambodia’s Kampot, Sihanoukville & Koh Rong

Chop Chong / O’smach border crossing

There is a more quiet border crossing into Cambodia that we used after our visit to the East of Thailand. The Chop Chong / O’smach border crossing is close to Surin and Buriram and we decided to hire a minivan from Surin since we were with a group of 7 people and paid 1500 THB in total. The journey to Chop Chong was comfortable and took us around 90 minutes. Getting through the whole immigration process was no hassle at all and we were on the other side of the border in no time.

Where to go next:
If you cross the border from this check point then there is not much else to go to but Siem Reap. Once you cross the border there will be various minivans and taxis waiting for you to step in. We hired another minivan and paid another 1500 THB after negotiating and we promised the driver we would call him for the return trip. Luckily the driver was this chilled-out young man who was talkative but not too much and with his broken English he was still able to share some fun insights into his country.

We stopped over to have something to eat and within 3 hours we arrived at Siem Reap.
Siem Reap is a charming town and we enjoyed the atmosphere and strolling around the many foodstalls and markets. The downside is that traffic is even more chaotic than in Thailand and there is the constant sound of cars, motorbikes and horns. We were also a bit shocked by the high prices for a meal in the restaurants compared to the ones in Thailand. It was to be expected with Siem Reap being a tourist city.
The next morning the same driver brought us to Angkor Wat. You will need at least one full day to see best of this magnificent temple ruin and the surrounding temples.

child border

Who needs immigration check points if you can get through the border fence

Myanmar

Phu Nam Ron / Htee Kee Border crossing

This border crossing links Kanchanaburi in Thailand with Dawei in Myanmar. From Bangkok you can take a minivan or go by train to Kanchanaburi. It is best to stay in Kanchanaburi for the night and then take a minivan to the border early in the morning. Or stay for a few more nights in Kanchanaburi, because the area is stunning with beautiful waterfalls, temples and forests.
From Kanchanaburi it’s another 2 hours to the border, and from the border it’s another 4-5 hours to Dawei, the closest city in Myanmar.

Where to go next:
Overlandundersea.com has a guide to everything fun in and around Dawei.

Malaysia

There are two easy border crossings for Malaysia. One will bring you by train to the capital city, the other will take you to a tropical Malaysian island.

Padang Besar border crossing

You can get through this border crossing by taking the direct train from Bangkok to Malaysia. At the Padang Besar border you will have to get out of the train to do all the paperwork and then get back into the train when everything is done. The train then continues to Butterworth (Penang) in Northern Malaysia.
Where to go next:
The train continues from Penang to Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia.

Satun Border Crossing

This border crossing is at the pier at Satun Thailand to get to the Malaysian island Langkawi. Stamp out of Thailand, Stamp into Malaysia, take the boat and you’re on a tropical island.
Where to go next:
You’re on a tropical island, where else you want to go? But if you need to get to the Malaysian mainland, then you can easily take the ferry.

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