Lao-sy Bus Journey
Vientiane Travel Blog› entry 86 of 117 › view all entries
I had heard travellers I had previously met refer to it as, the 'journey from hell': 24 hours - sometimes more - from Hanoi to the capital of Laos, Vientiane. The super-smart Vietnamese refuse to open the border crossings in the north of Vietnam to travellers, forcing people who want to cross after they have seen enough of north Vietnam to backtrack to the border crossing near Hue. Again, with the money fast running out, I chose the 11USD killer bus journey over the comfy and quick 120USD flight, hoping that I wouldn't regret it in the long term.
After the four-hour bus journey back from Halong Bay earlier that day, I hadn't had the best preperation. But once I was picked up by a moto driver and taken, peculiarly, to the side of a road in the middle of Hanoi where a handful of other travellers waited, I felt a little more up for the challenge; I think the massochistic side of me saw it as some kind of endurance test.
That quickly drained away once I saw our chariot. It was one of those comedy moments where one of the group said, "Oh, that doesn't look so bad," as we saw a new-ish and empty bus, a second before we were pointed to a rusty, packed-full pile of junk beyond it. It was some consolation that a couple of the guys I had met said they had paid another five dollars to be upgraded to a luxury, 'executive' bus, with a toilet and reclining seats. It seems that you can pay half the price, as I did, and you will still be sat on the same bus (unless you're unfortunate enough to not get a seat, as happens often).
Once on, grateful to get a seat, the shower I had had within the previous hour became pointless, as the oven-level heat resulted in such sweating that my eyes started to sting. It was already obvious that there would be no air-con onboard, and then soon vague hopes of the fans working were quashed. Once in motion, the breeze through the windows meant it wasn't too uncomfortable, but with every stop - which were regular - the bus once again became like a greenhouse, even though the sun had long disappeared.
I was surprised that in such conditions I actually managed to get some sleep, if only sporadic. The 3:00am stop was my lowest point, but compared to a group of people who had been dropped off by another bus and told to board ours, without a chance of finding a seat, I felt lucky. The plastic chairs came out for them, but they had the misfortune of being right under all the cargo that would fall from the shelves above the aisle.
Awaking at six, we had to wait around at the Vietnamese-Laos border for it to open and our visas to be processed. I had again overstayed my visa - if only for six hours and forty nine minutes - so was worried I would get a hefty fine, especially seen as the people at borders seem to get a kick out of fining foreigners whenever they can. This time, luckily, it wasn't the case, and I got away scot-free.
All aboard the rust bucket, and it was time to weave our way through the Laos mountainside. As the sun came out, we started to heat up again and the day got a little more tiresome. The hours were flying by, strangely enough, and I was absolutely shocked - but pleasantly so - when we arrived at Vientiane six hours ahead of schedule. I couldn't see our driver's customary kamikaze driving so I was pleased that he had got us there so quick. Hot, sweaty and tired, and in need of a cold shower, myself and four others I had met set off to find ourselves our first accommodation in Laos.