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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Good Answers are Hard to Find

LAOS | Wednesday, 20 June 2007 | Views [863]

Good answers, and in fact, reliable information has been difficult to come by in Laos.  One of the most challenging part of traveling in this part of the world has been our ability to effectively communicate with locals, when we don't know the language, and are equally as unfamiliar with the local culture and custom.  To every question we ask, we seem to always get bight eyed, enthusiastic "yes" response.  When we delve further to check for understanding, and validate a response, that's where the real challenge kicks in... you could ask the same question to the same person several times, and get a very different answer each time.  For example, trying to buy bus tickets, we simply needed to know our options - is there a local bus, tourist bus, express bus, VIP bus?  Do we get assigned seats, or is it a free-for-all when you show up?  All questions extremely important to determine our preferred mode of transport for the 11 hour trip to the south of Laos.  We got various answers which left us even more confused, and wondering if we should just bail on southern Laos and go direct to Vietnam and then down to Cambodia.  Same challenge when trying to figure out how to get our Cambodian visa.  How far is the embassy?  On the map it looks like 2K's from our guesthouse.  First answer - 6K's, you need a tuk-tuk, too far to walk. Next guy says it's 4K's and would take 15 minutes by tuk-tuk.  "But sir, you get visa from us, only two day turn-around for $40."  We know we can get same day turn-around at the embassy for $20.  We set out on foot at 7:00 a.m., the embassy supposedly opens at 7:30 a.m.  The guesthouse staff laughs at us, shakes their heads... the tuk-tuk drivers, laying in their hammocks from their underused vehicles, scoff at us as we exit the hotel, "look at the falang, they walk all that distance!"  We head out along the river road, and are instantly covered in a dark layer of dirt, adhered to our sweat drenched bodies from the dirt devils swirling from the road construction and wind that's kicking up from a storm and very dark clouds quickly moving in.  We make it to the embassy in only 30 minutes.  The Cambodian officials were happy and chatty, excited to tell us all about their great country and talk about their uncles and other relatives living in the USA.  We fill our our paperwork, hand in our crisp two $20 bills along with passport photos in a record 15 minutes, and are told to return after 4:00 p.m., just in time for us to get our passport with visa back and board our overnight bus to Pakse.  

We return to the guesthouse, full of confidence, and empowered from our very smooth embassy experience, and after our second cold shower of the day, we're hitting the town by 10:00 a.m.  After surveying 5 different vendors of bus tickets, we finally settled upon one cafe owner who seemed to know what he was talking about - at least he was able to answer all our questions, and follow up questions consistently and without hesitation... and from experience, seemingly to have sold a ton of different types of tickets.  We paid him $8 a piece for the 11 hour journey, on what we understood to be a VIP bus with A/C and reserved seats.  For only $8 a piece, we didn't really expect much, but thanked the man and hoped we'd get a bus that made it in the 11 hours, along with a real seat.  We combed the streets, popping in and out of local handicraft shops, in search of import opportunities with fair trade organizations supporting women's skill development and self-sustenanceance.  We finally found a great little shop that procured woven textiles and other goods.  of course, typical to our experience in Luang Prabang, when I wanted to explore future import business opportunity, and discuss sample prices, the boss has always "just left" for another country, in this case Thailand.  So we limited our purchase to a beautiful tapestry, and took photos of other promising product that would definitely sell in Solana Beach's Design District.  I even had to wrk the credit card machine for the store salesperson, they hadn't processed a credit card before.  Hopefully I did it correctly and won't be surprised by an outrageous hit to the card in another month.  After a quick trip back to the embassy, passports with new Kingdom of Cambodia visas freshly pressed inside, we had another amazing local laap dinner and made our way to the bus station for the next adventure leg of our Laos journey.  To our amazement, we were blown away by our luxury liner.  As we have gone on in other blog articles about all our hellacious trips on public transport, we've decided to dedicate the next entry to our fabulous bus ride, as it deserves much credit and fan fare, all to itself!

Tags: On the Road

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