Vientiane Travel Blog

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Yesterday I took a nine hour bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane.  All things considered, it was a decent ride.  The bus was far nicer than the one I'd ridden across the Vietnamese border, meaning that my knees touched the seat in front of me but without too much cramming.  Hence the swerves and curves and bumps and jolts were mere annoyances, as opposed to pain-inducing.  See?  I'm getting quite good at this patience while traveling thing.

So the day was pretty much uneventful, except I stepped in poop.  Everyone steps in poop, it's no fun.  And depending on the "freshness" of said poop, it can be ever more disgusting, as if stepping in stale poop wasn't revolting enough.  (Oh yes, I'm going there.  For those of you wishing to do without a rant on poop, do yourself a favor and close the page.)  The thing is, this is Asia.  And that poop?  HUMAN.  Pardon me while I vomit.

How does one step in human poop?  All too easily.

So the bus pulled over to the side of the road twice to allow us to pee.  And when I say pulled over to the side of the road, I mean pulled over to the side of the road.  I'm not talking rest stop or gas station, I'm talking ROAD.  Seeing as shoulders are scarce to the point of nonexistence in Asia, when one does appear it's used well.  In other words, EVERYONE pulls over at the same point to get out and pee.  The ground is utterly littered with used toilet paper, everywhere you look.  People have been peeing in these places for years.

So the prevailing behavior is as such: men simply walk a few (and I mean "few" in the most literal sense possible) paces, unzip, and go to town; women walk along until they can find some semblance of a bush in the hopes of providing meager coverage.  Some women, apparently veterans of this public peeing atrocity, bring sarong-like wraps to drape around themselves.  These women take even fewer steps than the men and squat wherever they see fit.  It's all very unnerving to those of us unaccustomed to mass urinating in public.

But hey -- nine hour bus ride with only two stops, the first of which a good four hours into the trip -- you do what you gotta do.  So I walked and found a small shrub, along with twelve other women.  It was weird.  I better be earning backpacker street cred for this.

And then the second time there's really no shrubbery to speak of, just a big clearing.  Into which most of the men have unhelpfully staked out as their turf.  So the space is limited, and I felt like a cat, pacing around and trying to choose the best spot.  And I'm squatting, and going "ugh it reeks!"  But surely no one would poop on the side of the road.  Who would poop on the side of the road??  Yeah, well, guess what I stepped in, good and hard and sat there -- unknowingly -- for a solid minute or so, making sure to really get as much as possible smashed up into the sole of my shoe.  We're talking MARINATING.  IN SHIT.  Does it get any grosser??

The last two or so hours of that ride were pretty revolting.  What could I do?  Scrape it on the bus floor?  I tried, but it got me nowhere.  Do you know how disgusting it is to be MARINATING IN SHIT for over two hours??  Better yet -- do you know what's worse than marinating in shit for two hours?  CLEANING IT.  I just gagged at the memory.

So, after THREE different bouts of trying to hose off my shoe (in the shower -- which I do NOT recommend, should you wish to sleep in the vicinity of said poop cleaning shower) it STILL is not clean.  And I've pretty much lost my appetite for the rest of the year.

The good news is I'm going home in ten days and was planning on donating all of my travel clothes anyway.  I will probably wish I still had them a day or two from now, but the fact that they're A, soaked and refusing to dry, B, forever reeking of poop, and C, STILL NOT CLEAN, means I'm leaving them behind.  I'm sure I'll manage without them.  EW!

Related side note: I hate hand sanitizer.  ABHOR it.  Refuse to use it.  I've been traveling with a small one ounce bottle of it for dire emergencies.  After clearing China without using it, I was pretty much convinced I'd never encounter something revolting enough to force me to use it again.  Yeah well, I used hand sanitizer last night.  After vigorous hand washing, a shower, and more hand washing, the sanitizer came out.  GENEROUSLY.  I think I may use it again tonight, just for good measure.  (My mom's reading this and doing a victory dance -- about the sanitizer, not the poop.)
sylviandavid says:
We carry "wet ones" .... seems like mostly I wind up handing them to people with kids .... but they are dandy for emergencies....

Too bad your shoes were too pooped to finish the trip with you...LOL... so they can rest until some brave soul disinfects them... A really desperate, brave soul..... :) .....

Happy Travels, Meg. Stay safe ... time to shop for your Mom..... (you have room...one pair of shoes less) .... :D
Posted on: Feb 20, 2010
mikkismith says:
Victory dance it is!
Posted on: Feb 20, 2010
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photo by: skydiver