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The Mystical Adventures of Tess and Jack

Border mission: Dien Bien Phu to Muang Khua, Laos

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 6 January 2010 | Views [4134] | Comments [1]

From the moment we set foot on out night bus to Dien Bien Phu (the last point of civilisation before crossing into Northern Laos), I knew that our time in Hanoi had left me a spoiled brat. Despite the bus being spacious, cushiony, decked out in red and gold fabric and filled with teddy bear blankets to keep us cosy on our journey, I felt hot, irritable, claustrophobic and very much not looking forward to the bumpy 14 hour journey ahead. Although Jack quickly and correctly pointed out that I was being highly unreasonable, my bad mood persisted and as we set off I was simmering under my teddy blanket. In addition, I needed to pee only one hour in. I thought my luck was improving when engine trouble caused the driver to pull over on the side of the highway to investigate, and our fellow passengers began piling out for a toilet break behind some big chunks of concrete. Great, I thought, as I followed their lead. As it turned out, not so great - it was dark and I foolishly was not looking at the ground too intently, and ended up stepping straight into a huge steaming mound of HUMAN SHIT!! Needless to say, I was quite distraught. I got back on the bus with tears welling in my eyes. Jack could see that I was upset and could smell something off and jumped to the conclusion that I had shat my pants (he told me this later and I thought it was so funny that I stopped crying and was in a reasonable mood for the remainder of the trip, despite the circumstances). Flustered, I began searching for the plastic bag the driver had provided for me to store my shoes in. Jack kindly offered for me to put them with his shoes (not knowing their state), so without thinking and keen to get as far away from the shit as possible, I flung them in - sharing the poo around. Ooops! It's a good thing I'm cute! We stopped an hour or two later for dinner (although I'd kinda lost my appetite) and I managed to rectify the shit-on-foot situation by hogging the girls' bathroom for 15 minutes and scrubbing it off with wet wipes. The rest of the bus trip was quite agreeable in comparison, and I even managed to catch a few hours' sleep. The only other interesting thing that happened was that we met some Lithuanians, and the only reason it was interesting was because I've never met anybody from Lithuania ever - has anyone else? If you have, please leave us a comment telling us any funny stories about Lithuanians.

We arrived in Dien Bien Phu early which was kinda good but kinda annoying because it was 5.30 am and the town was dead (or more dead than it is during the day, which is very). We agreed to let some keen moto drivers take us to a hotel we picked at random from the Lonely Planet, which was called Beer Guesthouse. Both the drivers were cracking up for the entire drive and we were wondering what was so funny. They dropped us off at an extremely closed looking building and we milled around looking confused until a man came out and gave us a huge rousing in Vietnamese (the only word I could understand was NO!, which was said several times). After some wandering around the quiet streets we managed to find a schoolgirl who told us the hotel had closed down (and was now just a beer joint). Obviously the drivers thought we were after a 6 am beer. Crazy whities! By this time we were exhausted and not feeling particularly picky about where we stayed, so we agreed to the next place we came across. It was certainly no Hilton - the walls and floors were grimy, someone had stuck 2 pieces of gum above our bed, and the whole place reeked of cigarette smoke - but it was a bed and a roof over our heads.

After a day of intermittent napping, searching for anywhere that sold food and watching lots of News Asia, we decided we should do something at least mildly fun because it was New Years Eve. We got the feeling that Dien Bien Phu wasn't the place for crazy celebrations. However we went for a walk and found a nice Bia Hoi joint in the shade of some trees whose kiddies' tables were packed with friendly locals, and sat down to a pre-dinner drink. This quickly got out of hand. After our third jug, a group of men called us over ("we want you to come and sit here") and ordered more beer, and more and more and more. After many a game of tram phu tram (bottoms up) I was as toasted as I have been on any New Years Eve. It was a great night and we had a lot of fun trying to break down the language barrier (one of our mates was an English teacher so he did the translations, starting every single sentence with "excuse-a-me, may I ask you one question please"). Jack also enjoyed pimping me out to to each of them in turn ("excuse-a-me, may I ask you one question please: my friend he wants to know if he can kiss your wife"). Amidst all this hilarity we completely forgot to eat dinner. Then we decided it would be cool/funny to blow all our remaining dong on footing everyone's bill, so that we couldn't purchase dinner. We managed to stay awake to toast Australian New Years but were deep in drunken slumber by the time Vietnamese New Year rolled around 3 hours later.

Our bus to Laos left at 5.30 am the next morning, and needless to say we were feeling a little sorry for ourselves (Jack was particularly vocal in this regard, while I was taking it like a man). We stumbled across town to the bus station in the dark, and were just settling down for another long journey when we were introduced to our new and highly undesirable travelling companions, a French guy with his wife and two kids. While I try not to judge on first appearances I had decided he was the biggest loser in Vietnam 2010 within 10 minutes of our paths crossing. As soon as he was on the bus he began arguing with his taxi driver, who hadn't turned his meter on and was asking for 50,000 dong. The fat Frenchie had paid him 35,000 and was adamant that he wouldn't pay the remainder (equivalent of less than AU$1) because on their way into town the previous day they had only been charged 15,000 all up. One would not think that $1 was worth getting your knickers in a knot over but apparently it was. He was screaming at the driver over our heads (good for throbbing hangover) and telling him to call the police. Amusingly enough, a policeman came. Finally he threw over some notes, declaring that "you are all thieves", telling him to go away and spitting at him. All in all it made us highly embarrassed to be white.

So cold, tired, hungover and surrounded by French assholes we began the bumpy ride over the border. No doubt there were many adventures ahead!

That's all for now folks! But I will let you know that we are alive and well in Laos, in the North Western Bokeo province and getting ready to do our Gibbon Experience shortly. We probably won't have net connection until we reach Luang Prabang so expect some more news (and hopefully some fun photos of me dangling 150 metres above the ground, freaking out) then.

Love to you all,

T & J xoxo




Fun yarn..and yes we do know some Lithuanians...remind Jack of Ingrid who lived next door to us in Armidale!!! Keep safe and thanks for the fun read (shit 'n' all!!)

Have fun in the tree tops little monkeys!!!


  Kath Jan 7, 2010 7:00 PM

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