After the relaxing last day in Chiang Rai we had (doing not much of interest), the last 24 hours have been the most surreal I have maybe ever experienced.
First of all at the border to Laos, while waiting for a shuttle bus over the Friendship Bridge, we were descended upon by flocks of Thai school children who were doing an English project on banana crisps that they had made. Each child had to talk to us in English and then a lot of photos ensued; I’ve never felt like such a celebrity – or a zoo animal, I’m not sure which one to be honest!
Once we got to Laos we were dropped off at a different bus station to the one we wanted (I think due to language barriers), and had to wait 3 and a half hours for our sleeper bus to leave. A lot of games of Uno, a few episodes of a great Thai sitcom and a lot of crisps later we were finally allowed to board the 12 hour sleeper bus to Luang Prabang.
The bus itself had bunk beds down the length of it, with two people sharing each bed (good job we were a pair). Unfortunately we were on a bottom bunk with no view out of a window, however very near the front so thankfully we could just about see where we were going. A conductor gave us all two plastic bags each, which I found strange. Until we started driving (more on that later).
Now, don’t get me wrong on a long journey I get that you have to stop every so often for people to relieve themselves, grab a bite to eat etc. But I’m not even kidding you, we must have stopped a MILLION times. First at a petrol station 5 minutes into the journey where nearly everyone got off to go to the loo; I mean really, could you not have gone before we left?! Then ten minutes after that the driver saw his mate and decided to pick him up as well. Then we stopped at a fruit stall to flirt with the lady and buy some oranges. Oh and then we decided to pull over to help the minibus of people who were stranded in the mountains. No wonder it took 14 hours instead of 12.
Then there were the drivers. Once again I understand two, or even three for a long overnight journey such as this. But I’m not joking when I say that at one point there were ELEVEN men stood at the front of the bus. It was like one big Laos jolly up the front. Team that with a lot of illegal overtaking on corners and the driver jabbering on the phone and you have one terrified passenger (me).
Not even two hours into the journey, an oh so bright light was shed on the plastic bags we were given before we left. At least 5 people, one of whom was right behind us, started throwing up. Thankfully I managed to keep the minuscule amount of food consumed that day in my stomach where it belonged, however it seems that the people of Laos have very sensitive stomachs. Given, the roads were mountainous and very twisty, but for a good 4 hours I felt like I was in some sort of vommity hell.
Thankfully the throwing up subsided and we managed the last half of the journey without too much hassle. The eleven drivers were whittled down to one as they all got off at their respective homes and we arrived in Laos at half past 6 in the morning. Our hostel allowed us into our room at half past 7 which was a god send, and I managed to sleep until 12pm.
Our experience of last night is not one I want to repeat any time soon. Fingers crossed Laos will be worth it!