On March 30, I crossed from Thailand to Laos at Pakxan/Bung Kan. It seems that not many people have done the Thai to Laos crossing and it took a long time with the Thai customs people. It was not difficult but the waiting was a pain.
First, my bike is Cambodian registered so as for Thai plated bikes, I can't say what the deal is.
Image above: Pakxan / Bung Kan GPS map
I started at the main immigration in town and was escorted by a very polite Englik speaking officer to the customs house, 2.9 km upriver from this location in town. From HWY 212 go left at the main crossroads to town. At the roundabout go left and the main immigration office is about 300 meters down. The river is ahead and have a drink, relax. It is not required to visit this office, go past it and the second right go down about 2.8 km and you will see a small wooden sign of "Customs" and the office is behind what is a lumber holding facility.
Ignore the girls outside, go in and there is no English speaking person but this is the fun of travel. To the left of the door inside is a young woman that will issue an Exit Customs form - a first for me. She takes the import form and basically duplicates it for exit. It seems that the software used, which is in Englik, is far beyond her right now. It took 4 officers to process the paperwork and several calls from the second in command of this office. After about 90 minutes, I was on my way. I was given a copy of my entry paperwork and the new exit paperwork. They were very concerned about my return date to Thailand for some reason. After the exit form was given to me, I had to go to a small office outside to have a Department of Customs form/Passenger Declaration done - he basically scribbled on it and done. From here, out to the road and turn right.
The ferry crossing is about 2km down. Here you proceed to the furthest building on the left. Hand over the exit documents and the Passenger/ Conveyance forms. Your passport also gets exit stamped here. They are very friendly and some Englik is spoken. There are three buildings on the left side, in the middle is where I deposited my copy of my entry form, had it stamped and returned.
Then a long wait for the ferry. At the time of writing, the water level is very low here and the ferry was overloaded, three trucks with dump trucks on them, two gas trucks, fully loaded and two container trucks with who knows what inside. The barge was at its limit, the waterline was about 5 cm below the deck. When the barge made the turn upstream to head to the landing, the water at the stern came over the deck almost a third of the way up the plating, my tires were about up to the bottom of the rims in water.
Upon exiting, there is a small compound on the left at the top of the hill. Davidfl's photos are excellent and show it all. I arrived at 17:30 or so and they were all playing volleyball, offered me a beer and was told "five minutes". 20 minutes later, my passport was stamped and a green Laisez/Passer-Ministry of Finance form done, stamped and I was on my way.
As for Visa on Arrival, there are signs up for it but when I asked if a 15 day Visa on Arrival was available, he said no. I am not 100% sure of this but am passing by in a few days and will update this.
What happens with Thai registered bikes, I can't say. What did seem like the main problem at the Thai side was the software for import/export of private vehicles seems new and there is confusion. I explained that when I crossed at Mukdahan, Kho Khong and VTE - Thailand to Laos, all I got as a stamp and signed my import form, handed it over and finished. He looked at me funny and said, "No, computer now".
All in all it was fun, why we do what we do. On the bad side, such a bitch to have to go 120 odd km from the Friendship Bridge and then 149 km back to VTE. Paksan isn't without charm and it rained heavily, first real cool air in a month, a nice break from the stifling heat of northern Thailand.