here we are with part two of Laos. Which is actually a chain of horrible bus rides up north. If we speak of “horrible” we rather mean totally (!) uncomfortable and long then unsafe. Maybe both, but most of the trips are safe or at least not too obvious dangerous.
Two ways to leave Tad Lo: going back to Pakse and taking a VIP sleeper to Vientiane, or going “local” across the land ;-) guess what, we went for the latter.
Next target were some huge Caves called “Kong Lor Cave”. Very recommendable, people say. Getting there from Tad Lo approximately 20h with local vehicles. So we split it up and went for Takhek, which are still 14h direction Vientiane. It was fun and exhausting at the same time. Driving 4,5 hours on the back of a truck with local people and lot of things to deliver, like 3 meter boards etc. was one stage at the very beginning. The street may not be drivable during rainy season but now it was just a dusty off-road kind of way. You do not feel your butt anymore after this. Trust me! We had good connections though and jumped on a local bus right after this. It was surprisingly not very crowded and we got some sleep. Bad thing: They through us out of the bus in Savanaketh because we were the only people in the bus. No people no bus. We got told the connection bus should leave in 20 min right away. Somehow this people are not around anymore if 20 min are over and you go to ask about the bus and then it suddenly leaves in 1,5 hours! Thanks a lot!
And to top it all, we got the worst seats in the back, a Lao lady next to us that seemed to have not taken one breath during the 4 hours!! And this bus was stopping literally every kilometer to get people in the already totally full bus. No kidding!
Bus stations in these countries are mostly not down town rather outside somewhere. And not seldom you go with shared taxis to the centre. After a good ride on the bus all you want is get a guesthouse and a shower as soon as possible. Not jut this time at 9 pm we were showed around the city to drop off some locals we were sharing the tuktuk with. Damn! We should have hired the entire vehicle including driver ;-)
The next day we went further after spending some Internet time. We have been abstinent for almost a week. Just 2.5h further north using a local truck again we found ourselves in a little guesthouse near the road with plans to see the caves in the next morning. Plans change always very quickly here and due to bad stomach we skipped the caves and jumped on a bus to Vientiane. Another 6 hours local bus ride.
Vientiane is a very nice and modern city with a lot of things to see. But instead of running through temples and sights we spent some money for a “better” hotel and just relaxed for two days. There we also had the chance to see the CCN Heroes 2010 with Aki Ra and other wonderful people.
It was good that we relaxed a bit because the overnight trip to Luang Prabang was just another exhausting trip. During the booking we asked for a sleeper and all we got was s laugh and “No sleeper. You cannot sleep anyway”. It cannot be that bad, can it? Yes it can! The road up there leads to hills and goes pretty high up there. Bad conditions and very curvy. Not nice!
But Luang Prabang is nice! Indeed it’s very beautiful. You feel like stuck in a French colonial movie. The architecture is interesting and it’s very clean. Dozens of restaurants with international (delicious) food. We met our Swiss fiends again for dinner with beer and spent some time cycling around to see temples and one of the waterfalls.
An early wakeup call is recommended at least once to see the monks getting their food at 6am from local people right on the street. While we were having one of the best meals in this town for a long time, monks get sticky rice, fruits and sometimes money in their bucket. They need to finish eating before 11am and they are not allowed to eat until the next morning.
Next stage is going to be the next, the fourth, country – Thailand. Since we did not want to hang out in a bus again for 13h we did not go directly to Thailand and choose a mini bus trip to Luang Namntha with was supposed to be 7h again. Just one overnight.
If you think you have had the worst ride already and it cannot get worse, it just does. This mini bus had beautiful black leather seats and confused us totally. The road from Luang Prabang to Luang Namntha made us feel like we had driven in a box in the back of an oxcart. Incredibly uncomfortable and exhausting!
On the contrary the local bus ride to thailand was probably the most comfortable ever. Seems that Laos welcomes the Thailand travelers with the best roads they have ;-) smart idea!
This was Laos, we really liked it and met a bunch of friendly and interesting people again. Great hospitality and it’s a beautiful country. Thanks a lot!
We were excited about entering Thailand and as we are on Ko Lanta for some R&R right now, we had already a great time in Thailand. We need to leave the country soon. Entering over land, there is a 15 days only allowance. So we are heading further to Malaysia on 15th at latest. Looking for a really really nice place to celebrate Carmen’s 30th birthday. Blog post about Thailand coming someday soon.
Love from Thailand
Carmen and Ingo