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Running away from Home

Long ride on Hell's bus

LAOS | Thursday, 11 March 2010 | Views [454]

Today I survived what was probably the worst travel experience I have had since I began my trip over two months ago. I was unable to take the slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang because of the low water level and so I bought a VIP bus ticket for 700THB. I don’t know what VIP stands for in Laos, but I am thinking that “verymuch in pain” is a good guess. How about “very irritated passenger”. We (myself and 50 other passengers who had been hoping to take the slow boat) were crammed into a bus that had very narrow seats with almost non-existent legroom. The space between the edge of my seat and the seat in front of me was less than 10 inches. My legs would not fit in front of me without a serious amount of pain, so I was forced to sit sideways in the seat and keep my legs out in the aisle, which caused a problem because the bus company overbooked and their response was to put stools in the aisle and just let people sit there……for a 16-hour bus trip. This wouldn’t have been so bad except that there is no highway between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang. There is only a narrow, winding road that goes through the mountains. I should say that it started out as a road because in some places it was only a glorified jeep trail, unpaved and treacherous. At some points it felt as though we were off-roading, and this bus driver didn’t have the skills of his bus-driving brethren in Nepal. He took corners too quickly and repeatedly slammed on the brakes while the 50+ of us in the back hung on for dear life. I tried not to indulge in too much self-pity because the people on the stools in the aisle had it much, much worse. It was a nightmare, and now I am dreading riding a bus in Laos again.

I was so grateful to reach Luang Prabang with it’s promises of inexpensive, yet clean guesthouses, massages, Lao cuisine, and beautiful environs and so far I have not been disappointed. I found a guesthouse for 120,000 Kip (USD15)and I took a long nap. Afterwards, I treated myself to a full-body massage (USD5) that kneaded out my knotted-up muscles. I am thrilled by the fact that the housing in Laos seems to be less expensive than Thailand, but I have noticed that the food is more expensive. I went to a restaurant and had a spicy Lao chicken dish with rice and a bottle of water and spent close to USD5. Maybe I am looking in the wrong places. I need to stray from the main drag if I am going to find the less-expensive fare. There are some restaurants that line the Mekong and tomorrow I will see if I can get some of the local specialties.

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