The recent launch of cross-border passenger services on the Laos-China high-speed railway just in time for Songkran, the Thai New Year, marks a turning point for the region, particularly for Nong Khai and neighboring northeastern provinces. With the first train originating from Kunming in China’s Yunnan province and arriving in Vientiane, the Lao capital, on April 13, there is great anticipation for an influx of tourists and investment to the area.
Nong Khai Tourism Association consultant Jiranan Sakuntangkoon highlights how many tourists opt to enjoy an overnight stay in Nong Khai before continuing their journey to Vientiane, situated only 20 kilometers away. The strategic location of Nong Khai makes it an ideal pitstop for travelers, and the added charm of its local attractions further entices visitors to spend more time exploring this vibrant area.
As the president of the Nong Khai Chamber of Commerce, Monnipa Kowitthasiri-kul expresses her hopes of charming Chinese tourists who travel to Laos to extend their trip to Nong Khai as well as other northeastern Thai provinces.
The private sector has already started reaping benefits from the Laos-China railway freight services, which have played a significant role in boosting both employment and new business opportunities in the region. With passenger services now available, there is an even greater potential for investment and a stronger call for the Thai government to upgrade the area’s infrastructure to further drive economic growth.
Completed in December 2021, the 1,000-kilometer rail line primarily served for freight transportation due to China’s stringent zero-Covid measures. However, the high-speed line now presents a new transportation route connecting Thailand with the lucrative market of mainland China. The Laos-China railway has revolutionized transportation by reducing travel time to just 10 hours, greatly benefiting the trade of perishable goods such as fruits and other food items.
The Nong Khai tourism consultant describes the railway as a bridge enhancing relations and cooperation between Thailand, Laos, and China. The new line currently offers one service each from Kunming to Vientiane and back every day. Prices for first-class and second-class tickets for the entire 10-and-a-half-hour trip are 760 yuan ($110 or 3,780 baht) and 470 yuan ($68), respectively.
The Laos-China high-speed railway is eventually expected to extend through Thailand all the way to Singapore as an integral part of Beijing’s Belt and Road project. This ambitious plan aims to connect China with the rest of Southeast Asia, ultimately promoting commerce and cultural exchange in the region.