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Pink Disco Bus to Pakse

LAOS | Thursday, 21 June 2007 | Views [1513]

It was a mammoth, double decker pink beast on wheels, decorated to the max with frilly pink curtains, and colored disco lights lining the walkways. It even had a bathroom onboard. We were seated on the top level, and the seats were posh, and comfy, reclining back even further than a business class airline seat. We even had an onboard waitress, who handed out cool wet towels, and an en-route meal of fried rice, meat bits, along with water bottles and candy treats. We were styling. We were holding our breath, waiting for them to tell us we needed to change busses, that we had accidently boarded the wrong one. This was not a facade, it was real... cheesy karaoke videos blared from the speakers above our seats, and the same tacky artists acted out scenes in a nature-environment for the entire trip. Plug-in head phones have not yet made it to Laos... so everyone gets to listen to the same thrilling videos over and over again - what a bonus! The pink beast sped off into the night, and we reclined our seats to their sleeping positions, snuggled up in pillows and blankets that were also provided... and yes, they were clean. I fell asleep somewhere in between karaoke love song videos. We stopped only once to change a flat tire, and I slept nearly the whole night through- peacefully under the cool, dry A/C. The bus actually got into town on-time!

6:30 am we rolled into the small town of Pakse, and we were met by eager sawngthaew drivers. We decided, spur of the early morning moment, still in a sleepy haze, to board a local bus for the 4 hour trip south to Si Phan Don, better know as the 4000 Islands in the Mekong Delta of Laos. We had originally set our sights on rafting for 3 days from Pakse to the Cambodian boarder, seeing the Islands as part of the trip, however, June being the start of the rainy season, the rivers weren't yet full enough to make it all the way through. So we haggled with the various providers of transport; truck, mini-van, and local chicken-bus. While the mini-van would get us there quicker, they were also planing to cram in 11 falang, not to mention additional passer-byres on the way. The truck was a cheap option, but our bodies were suffering from rides on bad roads, and I'm not sure our liver, kidneys, spleen, and other internal organ bits that have been taking a beating from the lack of adequate suspension would make it... so we opted for the local bus. It was early morning, only a 4 hour ride, how bad could it be? We had all day with no demands or plans. We, along with several other island-bound falang, hopped on board the dirtiest bus we've been on to date. Left over spit bags with remnants of animal carcasses that had been snacks at one point during the night, hung from seat backs, and you couldn't even see the floor from the layer of trash covering it. We opened all the windows wide and took in the views for the next 6 hours of starts and stops, picking up and dropping off local passengers and cargo all the way. Our bus stops at the riverside, and we attempt to negotiate with the boat drivers cartel for a group discount. Will we ever learn that our efforts are futile in this country? I think it's like learning a new language.... we feel we need to keep practicing our newly acquired skills or we'll loose them for all the future countries we'll be traveling in. Not productive, we fork over triple the cost suggested in our Lonely Planet guide and climb aboard a shaky motorized long-tail canoe, that putters its way across the river tributaries, swerving around island "clumps of lush bush" to arrive at the backpacker haven of Don Det.

Tags: On the Road

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