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Paul & Luiza´s World Tour

Laos - Vientiane & a Laosy Road Trip

LAOS | Tuesday, 23 August 2011 | Views [1798]

Destination – Lao – Vientiane and the road to Luang Prabang – A Laosy road trip!

We take a taxi to the train station in Bangkok, then an overnight train to the border of Lao. From there, another 20 minute train ride on the smallest train ever followed by a minivan and we finally reach the Aroon Residence Hotel, absolutely awesome. Don’t even get us started on breakfast. We really like this place. It’s a little far from “the action” but it’s so nice we might stay put. We find a nice French restaurant for a steak au poivre and some amazing beer Lao and go back to the room to “recover” from the train ride.

We spend a week in Vientiane. It’s nice but there’s really nothing much to see and do besides a monument, a few fairly new temples and a couple of markets, all in the same spot. There’s a night market along the river and the usual string of barbecue restaurants. The lack of attractions is attributed to the Thais invading and flattening it to the ground hundreds of years ago. Fair enough! Anyway, we try to make the most of it. We eat, we shop, we plan, we walk along the river & consume quantities of the very nice Beer Lao, one of the best beers in South East Asia. Then we decide to go to Luang Prabang. Everyone says it is the most magical and well preserved city in south east Asia and of course we have to check it out.

If you’ve been following us, by now you know we don't fly if we can avoid it. So, long discussions and consideration are given to alternate means of transportation. Shall we rent a car, car with a driver, hiring a motorbike, etc, as we have been warned by absolutely everybody, not to travel by land In Lao. Every way we explored turned out to be either very difficult or ridiculously expensive and though we should have taken a flight (what’s hindsight for?), we decided to go by VIP bus (Very Ignorant People??? Vehicle Insanely Poor??? Vast Indication of Problems???).  So, we are picked up from our hotel at 7.30AM by a shared tuk-tuk and we reach the bus station. The VIP bus is full and definitely looks very precarious but the “VIP” people jump on board anyway. Sharing the bus with the locals are us, an Aussie girl, an American and an English guy and two young Japanese guys (who amazingly and annoyingly manage to sleep throughout our whole ordeal).

The Event!!

The VIP bus leaves Vientiane 08:00am for Luang Prabang (400 kms) eta 10-12 hours. Obviously the A/C is very bad and we are all soon sweating like pigs. We arrive in Vang Vieng @ 2:00 and the suspension breaks down. They try to fix it for 1 hour. Then we get back on the and hit the road again but stop soon after to try and fix it again for another hour. Hit the road again but then we stop at a roadside waterfall and we are told we will have to change buses. Next bus should be along in 2 hours (yeah right!). 5 hours later another bus arrives full of people. They all get off so we can get on, wtf?  And while our new bus is turning around in the road they skillfully manage to rip off the muffler so by now it’s about 9:30 pm and we get going again but this time the new bus is really loud as it has no muffler!! 

An hour later, we arrive at a long queue of cars, buses and trucks and are told there was a landslide and that it's impossible to get through. So, we are kind of informed that we have to sleep on the bus!! Of course there is no A/C and no lights. Just lots of Laotians making a lot of noise and talking and getting on and off the bus, turning on torches in your face and making phone calls all night.  We get some strong rain and of course there’s water everywhere leaking inside the bus.  At this stage, someone decides to share their music with us all, forcing me to kindly shout “turn the fucking music off”. It kind of worked, so am proud of myself! At about 6:00am we finish a very sleepless night and go out for coffee and a cup of noodles, for about 4 times the normal price. Let’s take advantage of the poor tourist suckers… By now we are all friends with the other tourists.  

We all go for a walk in the mud and check out the roadworks. A huge mountainside had slid down and there are about 5 earthmovers working to clear the road. There’s hope! We get underway at about 08:00 am and it only takes about 1 minute to cross the mud with no problems.  So on the road again (not for long) and after about 4 hours we hear a very loud bang and I see the wheelcover arch go flying off at escape velocity.  The driver doesn’t stop and we can’t be bothered to tell him about his bus as he hasn’t cared about his passengers at any stage so who gives a fuck right???  After another 30 minutes we stop again and they realize the cover isn’t there anymore and that we’ve blown a tyre!! That was what caused the cover to go flying across the road.  Anyway, the tyre gets changed they actually have a spare!! what a relief) in about 30 minutes and its back on the road.

Just when I give up all hope of ever arriving in Luang Prabang, we get there (well with a few more stops along the way to drop people off) and catch a tuk-tuk to our hotel, Villa Somphong, which is pretty nice btw, and go for a shower, some noodle soup and a nice 10 hours sleep.

Event summary?

Breakdowns or repairs – 4

Hours on the road – 12 hours

Hours spent waiting for repairs/replacement buses etc – 18 hours

Total travel time – 30 hours for a distance of 400 kilometres

The most amazing thing? For the local people it was just business as usual. All smiles, no complaints… yeah, we want to be Zen when we grow up and we hope it’s soon. Meanwhile, we just hope we don’t kill somebody because of another bad bus journey. We also hope bloody Luang Prabang is worth it!


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