Laos banks on new high-speed railway to draw tourists and investment

The men arrived in dark jackets, and the women in fine woven silk skirts. They filed into the gleaming railway station under a red sign that said “Vientiane” in Lao and Chinese.

Then they set off. Laotian lawmakers took a test ride on their country’s first railway network to the karst-ringed tourist town of Vang Vieng. What would have been a four-hour road trip from the capital took under one hour on Nov 17 on the Lane Xang, a bullet train named after an ancient Laotian kingdom.

The train sped past paddy fields and mountains.

On Dec 3, Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh is expected to make the inaugural rail trip from Vientiane to the country’s northern frontier at Boten, a distance of more than 400km.

Tan Hui Yee