Cau Treo/Namphao Border Crossing – Vietnam - Laos

Hanoi Travel Blog

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No mans land between the two borders.

Last night’s part of the crossing was okay as border crossings go (I hear). We had deliberately chose a crossing that was commonly used (i.e. not new) and although it required a 24 hr journey, it seemed the safest bet. I read till about midnight and hoped to get a good night’s sleep through to the border arrival at about 7.30am. The bus was probably the dirtiest we’ve been on, and not being a sleeper bus it was pretty hard finding a comfortable way to sleep. The seats were narrow so Zoe spent much of the night crushing me into the window, or us elbowing each other trying to find a comfortable position.


We arrived at the crossing at about 7.30am in the drizzling rain and thick, thick mist. The bus dropped us off at the Vietnamese side and we hurried into the building squinting and huddling against the rain.

Mynah bird. He only spoke Vietnamese though.
Inside all the bleary-eyed passengers moved towards various counters, apparently knowing what they were doing. We were glad to have befriended a Polish girl Joanna who had crossed from Thailand and had some semblance of a clue what to do. We handed our passports to the Vietnamese officers who in due time called our names, requested a dollar, and stamped our passport with an exit stamp.


From this building we then had to walk about a kilometer in the misty no-man’s-land down to the Laos border building. Here we filled in an application form for our visa (issued on arrival) but when the guy asked me for my photo I realised I had left it locked up in my main bag in the bus hold. At first I thought I might get away without it, but after reading Catfish and Mandala, and When Heaven and Earth Change Places I wondered if the visa cost of $30 might be pushed up to $40 in order to ‘grease’ the paperwork. In short, I ran off into the mist and walked back the kilometer to the bus in the rain, stepped carefully through the mud to the side of the parked bus, gingerly lifted the muddy hold flaps and attempted to get through my 2-stage padlocked Pacsafe steel wires encasing my rucksack.


Photo finally acquired I managed to hitch a ride with the bus heading down to the Laos side and on arrival back in the building discovered the guy had let my paperwork through about a minute after I ran out and Zoe had paid for my visa for me. Duh. So we then filled out Entry cards for Laos, handed them to another clerk, was stamped and finally was permitted to enter Laos.


Back on the bus I was now cold and wet. My socks and trainers had remained soggy for days following a laundry fiasco in Hoi An, and the mildewy smell was made worse by this new soaking. I was too cold to take my wet socks off, but couldn’t fit both feet under me at the same time in the narrow seat. Added to which the bus was held up for about 2 hours for some unknown reason, there was no hot drinks served at the shack café nearby, and the child on the bus insisted on carrying out a continuous shrieking ‘conversation’ with the café’s mynah bird consisting of long high-pitched squeaks at high volume. The parents didn’t see this as a problem, but with everything else I was miserable.


Finally the bus started moving around 11am, but which point I had given up on socks and wrapped my now prune-like toes in my Vietnamese silk scarf. Within 15 minutes of descending from the border crossing, I fancied the landscape was already markedly different and the temperature rose dramatically. Suddenly it was towering cliffs, luscious vegetation and pink earth. The little towns we passed were wooden houses on stilts, rustically beautiful and more ‘earthy’ than their Vietnamese counterparts. It was still poor and dirty, but dusty with dry soil rather than filthy with mud and pollution. The houses were pretty with red roofs and blue gables, and not hovels in concrete and corrugated iron. Barefoot women walked and laughed by the roadside in pretty headscarves, replacing the conical hats of Vietnamese farmers. By the time we arrived at the roadside café I was warm and dry, in flip flops and basking in the warm sunshine.


We ate a dubious meal of rice, watery cabbage soup, chopped up chicken (would not touch this dodgy stuff), bizarre papaya/carrot-like vegetable with chilli, and meaty spring rolls (heaven knows what the meat was!) It wasn’t the best meal I’ve ever had, but who knew when we’d eat again?


Back on the bus and the journey was mostly uneventful (aside from a brief break-down when the bus started making funny noises), and I was super content with Daft Punk in my earphones, stretched out with the seat in recline, staring at the beautiful landscape and reveling in the sheer heat. J


We arrived in Vientiane at 7pm and hoped to catch a bus heading to Luang Prabang which we hoped to jump off at Veng Vieng part-way, but it was no go so Frederick, our Nigerian border friend helped us negotiate a ‘Jimbo’ taxi to the Mekong riverside (backpacker land) and promised to meet us for drinks in an hour. It took us that hour to find a guesthouse with room, but after a shower to wash the travel off us we waited for him for an hour with no show. Finally we headed to Full Moon Café opposite our Youth Inn Guesthouse and had a great dinner before turning in ready to head to Veng Vieng tomorrow.

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No mans land between the two borde…
No mans land between the two bord…
Mynah bird. He only spoke Vietname…
Mynah bird. He only spoke Vietnam…
photo by: mario26