Never can say goodbye...

Vientiane Travel Blog

 › entry 41 of 52 › view all entries

Goodbyes at the airport

I'm currently sat on a nice squashy seat facing a sunny window overlooking the quiet runway at Vientiane airport. There's a man with a pink shirt and matching pink headband sat next to me. No idea who he is, but he's smiled and said hello. He's drinking black coffee and reading a Colin Forbes book.

I'm feeling emotionally wrought and am thinking about the strangeness of airports... how the functional blandness of them is either in absolute harmony with the seasoned business traveller, or (as in my current state) in complete contrast to messy passions; people anxiously waiting for hellos or reeling from goodbyes.

I've just swallowed back the tears (ok maybe one escaped but there has been some pretty galant composure happening) as i said my final goodbye to Nam.

He's been my best friend and my boyfriend here in Laos. I'll probably never see him again and it hurts so much.

Another tear just escaped so I'm now hastily typing away with my sunglasses on. From the outside I probably look quite flashy & stuck up, although on the inside I feel like roadkill.

Extract from an email home


I sent you a couple of texts whilst on the bus journey - here's the detail if you have a 10 mins to spare & a willingness to be reminded of all that is wonderful about the developed world!

Before it began I was dreading the bus trip: I'd paid 30 dollars for a ticket from Hoi An to Vientiane, which promised an aircon bus all the way and an over night at a hotel near the border crossing.

However I was aware from the Lonely Planet that these deals often fall short of their promises so I was a bit anxious, but it turned out even worse than I feared!! After 6 hours on the road (and one confusing bus swap at Hue) -I arrived at Dong-ha, the "border town" which was a distant 84 kilometers from the border! I was dumped at a very dodgy stinky cafe and told by the bus driver: 'You sleep - bus to Vientiane tomorrow'.

Then everyone disappeared

After an hour of sitting on a small plastic seat on my own - except for the company of filth flies - the revolting brown-toothed cafe owner came along, pointed at me & said - You! sleep! And gestured for me to get on his moped. Which I did: backpack, pillow & all. He then took me for about a mile down these dusty, residential windy paths and led me into somebody's house. He showed me a room (clearly belonging to a teenage girl judging by the boy band posters tacked to the walls) - pointed at the bed - which was covered with a wooden beads- no sheets and one pillow.

Again he spat at me - You! Sleep!.
I was like... 'What the f....?' where's the bathroom, no more like - Where's my hotel!'.
'No hotel'. He says
Then we had a conversation which went 'No hotel!" .
... 'Yes hotel!' .....'No hotel!" .... 'Yes hotel!' for about ten minutes until I gave up. He was such a nasty man I had no chance. He left, barking ' 5.30 for bus Vientiane ' at me.

I was totally pissed off and a bit scared at this point that I just locked the door, downed two diazepam and passed out on the beads.

4.50 he knocks at my door. 'Yes, I'm awake' I answer.
5.00 He knocks again - I open the door and he goes 'UNGHH!' nodding his vile head towards the door and making motorbike gestures.
'Give me 5 minutes' I say.
'No! He shouts, looking nastier than yesterday.

5 minutes later I come out - he doesn't help me with my backpack, rucksack or pillow - just shuffles off down the path.

There is no motorbike - and we walk along the path for 15 minutes - him not even offering to carry anything - just hacking and spitting intermittently.
noodle soup.

We get to his grimy cafe at 5.20
You sit! He says to me.
'No!' I say. 'When's the bus coming?'
'6 cock' he says.
'6! - That’s in 40 minutes - why the hell did you wake me early and make me hurry!'

I am so f*cking furious now, it's only the backpack that stops me physically attacking the little eejit.

He shoves a menu in my face - breakfast? milk coffee?
'No way I'm bloody buying a thing off you mate' I say, and go and stand outside on the pavement.

Moments later a little taxi van pulls up. Skanky man pushes me on it. I climb in without even looking at him.

The van drives up and down & around the same street for another hour & a half. Nobody speaks English they just shake their heads irritably when I say 'Laos border, we go to Laos border??' I am so close to tears it's only anger that stops me from bawling like a baby.
Finally when there are 10 people and 15 sacks of vegetables in the 6 seater, we head off towards the border (I know this only by reading a passing street sign).

The van stops another gazillion times en-route and at one point there are 14 people and three babies on board - one man actually had only his bum & legs inside the van with everything else is hanging outside. I'm pressed with my head to the roof and some lady has dumped her bag & the bottom half of her baby on of my lap. l cannot move one inch.

Then one dumbass throws his cigarette butt out the window - but it flies straight back in again and settles under my thigh.
"FOR FUCKS SAKE!' I scream inwardly, whilst jerking about like I'm electrocuted before finding it and throwing it out the window. Still holding back the tears by some mighty miracle.

At the Laos border I am deposited and pointed in the direction of an official building. I'm the only foreigner in sight and walk the 500 meters towards it alone with all my gear & beloved pillow, which I'm clasping like it were my first born.

1 hour later, 4 forms, 37 dollars, and on the 3rd attempt - I'm through into Laos. Another lone 500 m walk before a lady on a moped picks me up and takes me a further 1 K up the road to a bus station. There sits one bus, circa 1820 it’s exterior held together with flaking blue paint and rust. There's a leaning tower of groceries strapped to the roof and the customary ten men standing about barking orders and smoking as baskets and boxes get passed around.

So that's my VIP aircon bus to Vientiane, right?

Nope! Its only gong halfway. One hour later it leaves, I improvise aircon by sitting by the back door between two bursting baskets of bananas. At 1 pm (one hour short of my supposed arrival time in Vientiane) the bus stops and I'm hauled off and transferred to another bus that has stopped on the opposite side of the road: heading in the direction I've just come from. I climb on..... This one is slightly better in the way that having chicken pox is preferable to mumps.

10 hours later than expected - 12.30 am & we limp into VTE. I'm almost delirious with fatigue: have not slept - I have only drunk 1 small bottle of water (to avoid the roadside loos) and only eaten 3 mints, 3 butterscotch sweets and a small plain baguette - in 24 hours.

frankcanfly says:
You have certainly experienced the extreme frustration of SW Asian travel.... and you're better because of it. Great Tale!!
Posted on: Jul 09, 2007
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
noodle soup.
noodle soup.
photo by: skydiver