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My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

WORLDWIDE | Wednesday, 9 March 2011 | Views [148] | Scholarship Entry

My way from Pakse to Savannakhet (Laos)

Early in the morning I am squeezed in a local bus heading from Pakse to Savannakhet. I feel like I am trapped in a can and start asking myself again: »Oh, why am I still doing this if I could simply get on one of those VIP buses filled up with posh tourists?!«
Poor old thing is fully loaded inside and its roof is packed with stuff making it look like a "double decker". Somehow I have managed to get to the rear seats and make myself enough room to be seated. Moving on like the slowest snail the bus keeps on taking more passengers and their luggage of all possible and impossible kinds. I find myself surrounded by birds, wooded crafts, heavy boxes and hundreds of bags.
Local buses do not have any cooling or ventilation other than open windows. It is so hot and humid that we all slowly start falling dizzy and asleep. A kid next to me sleeps and stretches himself all over my place.
The poor old thing cries and sobs. Driving over holes we are thrown up and crashed back down to the gravel again and again. Loud Lao music never stops. Soon it gets accompanied by birds and chicken having been brought on the bus by grandpa. He got them on and pushed them under the seat of a girl in front of me.
In Cambodia I somehow got used to food stalls by the road. They are all over the place and when the bus stops, one can choose between many different places and million different tastes and furthermore, one could go and find a proper loo. Well, Laos does not have that. There are no food stalls and no stopping for a reasonable washroom. When a bus shortly stops by the road, there would be some local women running towards it and lifting their arms to the windows. What they offer is grilled meat on sticks, rice and sauces in plastic bags as well as some drinks. They all run to the bus at the same time and start fighting for their 'business'.
Passengers stretch their hands through windows, exchanging the notes for food. In two minutes the bus smells terribly bad and nice at the same. And I suffer for being unable to go to a toilet! Jumping over the holes on the road makes the things go worse. When we stop, there will be some locals making their way off the bus and follow the call of nature, doing their things right behind the bus. And I still suffer and wait for a real toilet. I check the dictionary and try my best to pronounce correctly: »hong nam«, Lao for toilet. Nothing. When we finally start stopping again in the middle of nowhere, I climb over the other people in the bus, run out and towards the forest nearby where I see some other women going. Indeed, it is time to forget about good manners and time to stop hiding my white bun… And who cares about snakes and bombs!

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

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