Bus to Veng Vieng

Vientiane Travel Blog

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Alarm set for 7am this morning but we all ignored it after our day-long bus ordeal and woke up at 8.10am. We went for breakfast at Vista café on our road, used their internet (in exchange for eating more great south-east Asian cake, heaven forfend) and then jumped in a Jimbo down to the Tao Salat bus station to catch the 11.30am to Veng Vieng.

 

This was our first experience of bus journeys in Laos. Our bags were loaded onto the roof rack (I panicked slightly as I had not put the outer padlock on the bag and have heard stories of ‘roof robbers’ (or indeed ‘bus hold thieves) who sit up on the roof sifting through people’s stuff and stealing things) and then we climbed onto the bus and discovered the aisle was filled with sacks of rice so we had to walk up the bus with our backs to the ceiling and creep along at right angles to our seats. The bus cost 25,000 kip (roughly $2.50) and supposedly would take 3 hours, though we had been forewarned that ‘Laos time’ is always double what they quote you.

 

As we waited to leave we were surrounded by gabbling women climbing all over the seats and sacks filling the remaining space around the seats with plastic bags of spring onions, banana leaves and other greenery from a seller outside the window. Finally we set off, but not before I was sharing my seat with half a field.

 

The journey was pretty bumpy and pretty sticky, and we made many stops at villages along the way. Sometimes people got off, sometimes people hopped on, always a herd of clamouring vendors clutching sandwich bags of fruit, cans, sugar water with straws held their wares to the window for a quick sale to the passengers. I was handed funny brown lychee-type things, tiny apples, and a weird green sliced fruit that tasted like lemon carrot by friendly passengers, both Laos and western. The Laos women on the bus chatted merily and laughed easily, even talking to us sometimes in their language, and us replying in ours, and us getting on knowing what the other meant from the gestures and situation. They say Laos people seem to go by the motto ‘Don’t worry, be happy’. So far it rings true…

 

We finally rocked into Veng Vieng at around 4pm and deposited onto an unsealed road seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Here is definitely the smallest town I've been to in Asia, and carrying 20 kilos of stuff across stony ground in cheap flip flops was pretty painful on my soles. We were met by Joanna’s Swiss friend who led us to a guesthouse (actually very close) where we had a well-needed shower and the set out for dinner at the Organic Farm Café. I had a fabulous vegetable fried rice with Free Trade Sugar Palm Beer and Mulberry Wine. We then set off to book a tour for tomorrow on the tubes (famous on the south-eastern Asia route) and grabbed a cocktail at the Rising Sun bar with pool tables, floor cushions and barefoot veranda. Walking around Veng Vieng is like being at a music festival; all fairy lights and music tripping out over the warm evening air, roadside stalls selling 'roti' (chopped up fried pancake with chocolate, syrup and peanuts), massage parlours and films being shown in restaurants. Apparently some people love it or hate it; personally, I love it.

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photo by: skydiver