Saturday, June 13, 2009

Second and third Lao bus rides

Changing buses has become the popular theme for our recent Lao bus rides. The first time it happened it seemed like our bus driver called the bus ahead and was like, Hey there are not alot of people on my bus and you are going to Vientiane too, so why don't you take them? And the other bus driver said, Ok, and waited by the side of the road for us to catch up. So we consolidated, to achieve a more scrupulous use of non-renewable resources. Then we arrived in Vang Vieng, tubing capital of Laos, and our new bus driver did not realize that four of us had hoped to continue on to Vientiane. He said, Vang Vieng. We said, Vientiane, and so on. Finally he convinced another bus driver to take us to Vientiane, but we had to squish five across the back with another lady and her chickens. There is something to be said for a capital city of 200,000 people... but now is not the time.

Lao bus ride bathroom breaks consistently entail stopping at random points along the road where people go to do their business in the shrubbery. Now I am no longer surprised.

Our third Lao bus ride from Vientiane to Savannakhet was going fine until our bus driver decided not to continue to Savannakhet. I don't know where we were, at some bus station in some town in Southern Laos, and he indicated that we and our stuff should get on the bus next door. We hauled our backpacks across, got in, and saw that the aisle was filled with two motorcycles and every seat was occupied except for two seat next to an armoire blocking the aisle in the back. The last seats were filled with suitcases and boxes and an oscillating fan - apparently someone was moving via the bus. People standing in the remaining aisle space began staking their claims on plastic stools and space to set them. We realized we were either going to be straddling motorcycles on the last two hours of our bus journey or we were going to get those last two seats next to the furniture. John opted to crawl in through the window from the outside. Because I was wearing a dress, I was not sure this was the best way to prevent Lao giggles. So I stepped up onto the motorcycle seat, stepped over an orange-robed monk's seat back and landed safely in my chair. This bus was decked out with oscillating ceiling fans and flourescent lights, but both of these were blocked for us by the armoire... we bought some beerlao from the lady selling her goods outside the window and eventually arrived in Savannakhet.

Our bus ride today from Savannakhet to Pakse involved no bus switching, armoires, or motorcycles, but it did involve jungle bathroom breaks and chickens. Water buffalo proliferated in the rice paddies as we continued south along the Mekong. We have seen Thailand three times now across the river, but we won't be going there for awhile.

First comes Cambodia: after many conflicting reports, we finally confirmed that we can get a visa at the border with Laos. Second comes Vietnam. Third comes Thailand after a cheap cheap flight from Hanoi to Bangkok. Fourth comes Malaysia. Things are shaping up.

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