June 29, 2010

Lost in Laos

We made it to Vientiene, Laos in one piece! 16 hours in a HUGE air conditioned bus, Chris and I were so lucky as we grabbed the back seats and slept most of the way!
Thinking we had everything figured out, we got dropped off at the local bus station and boarded a local (meaning not airconditioned or organised by a travel company!) Lao bus for Vang Vieng. The looks we got were priceless as our bags were shoved into the back seat, with little kids peeking at us with dumbfounded expressions and slight scepticism. We waited about an hour while the bus was loaded up with cargo on the roof and a never ending stream of passengers. Stools were brought out to accommodate any late additions, boxes of live chickens were shoved under seats and babies were passed from one lap to another to make more room! I bought a baguette from a local vendor and it wolfed it down (only stopping to question what kind of meat I had just eaten after it was gone!) And finally, an hour and a half later (and roughly $US2) we set off for our 4 hours journey to Vang Vieng!
After driving through endless fields of rice paddies and winding through mountain terrain, we came to small Lao villages. The bus driver dropped people off one by one in front of their houses/huts, just like a school bus :) At first this was quite cool because it felt like we were part of something more genuine but after 4 hours my shoulders were sunburnt, I was starving (as usual), the chickens clucking had gotten really annoying and Chris and I were wondering where the hell we were going…No one spoke a word of English (or Spanish, French or Dutch, we tried!) And they just kept on smiling broadly at our pathetic attempts at hand gesturing “where are we going?”
Finally we came to a broad valley with beautiful mountains on one side. The bus driver stopped next to a strip of houses and what can only be described as an unfinished, flooded car park. He smiled and gestured for us to get off (we were the last few on the bus). Chris and I blinked in disbelief, hurriedly flicking through our guide book to see if he was right. Before we could argue our bags were taken off of the bys and we were stranded in the aforementioned car park, not sure whether to laugh or cry. On cue, it started to rain and we struggled (well, I struggled as I over packed and have 20 kg of luggage) towards what looked like it could be some form of a town.
Soaked, tired, smelly and utterly fed up, we trudged along and booked ourselves into one of the first guest houses we could find ($2 a night!) Desperate for a shower and some food, we didn’t really inspect our room properly…
Later, after dinner and some drinks with an international motley crew, we came back to our dodgy room and ended up propping our suitcases against the unstable looking door as we were convinced one of the odd (or drunk) characters we had bumped into in Laos would come after us!

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