AsiaLaos

Crossing into Laos

Laos Travel Blog

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View from the border crossing. (Yes, those are clouds below us.)
Yesterday I crossed overland from Dien Bien Phu to Muang Khua, and while it was neither short nor pleasant, it was not the nightmare that crossing into Vietnam was.  There were no touts or hassles or people trying to rip you off, hence making the dusty old bus and nonexistent legroom and insanely bumpy roads easier to handle.

As for the roads in Laos, they are every bit as bad as they say.  Forget pavement, you can't even get a solid, compact dirt road here.  Most of the time we were driving through loose sand, making hurting around mountains with steep precipices all the more unnerving.  No traction and that out of control skidding while in a top-heavy bus, heart in your mouth feeling.  There are of course potholes and rocks everywhere, as well as small scale avalanches of dirt and rocks plunging down the mountainside to avoid.
Road closed for construction
  We also forged several streams and creeks of various depths, plowing through rocky and muddy banks alike.  

There are a couple of strips of road on the Laos side that are under construction every day.  The hours are clearly marked on a sign: 6am to 10am at one spot, noon to who knows when at another.  It's been the same hours for months, and why the buses don't time it better to hit these spots (i.e. when they're open) strategically, I have no idea.  We sat at the first spot for thirty minutes or so, which isn't too terrible.  People who crossed the day before us sat for an hour and a half and the people who crossed the day before that sat for four.  Four hours!  (For those of you going wait I thought you said you couldn't cross on a Tuesday, yeah that's what I thought too.
Road closed for construction
  That's what I was told by MULTIPLE sources.  Apparently you can cross any day you want.  I would've been here a day sooner had I known.  Annoying.)

As for the borders themselves, they were uneventful, tedious, far too time consuming (just under an hour for the Vietnamese and nearly two for the Lao), and riddled with the usual extra fees.  As if paying for a visa and associated bureaucratic bullshit wasn't enough.

All-in-all it took us a little over seven hours.  Waking up at 4:30am after a crappy night's sleep, courtesy of mosquitoes dive bombing around my ears and biting me to pieces all night was not fun.  Nor was being bumped and jostled and jarred along never ending dirt roads, roasting in the sun and swallowing blankets of dust through the open windows.
Road closed for construction
  And then finally arriving and being dropped off on the wrong side of the river, giving the ferry man his daily opportunity to fleece the tourists.  Not my favorite way to spend a day, but not the worst either.

The best part?  That was my last overland border crossing.  Well, second to last.  I still have to cross into Thailand one last time.  But visas and dubious fees and shady border officials are behind me.  The Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge (really, that's what it's called) is supposed to be a breeze.  And that makes me very happy.
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View from the border crossing. (Ye…
View from the border crossing. (Y…
Road closed for construction
Road closed for construction
Road closed for construction
Road closed for construction
Road closed for construction
Road closed for construction