I just wanted to say that myself and my girlfriend were just on the worst bus ever. It was a minibus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and I had heard that it was bad, but not this bad. This driver was a maniac and the road itself was crazy windy. I don't think the driver knew how to use his brakes, he was taking corners at at least 45-50 kph. I don't get carsick but this ride was nuts.
Has anyone else experienced this? and also is the ride to Vientiane as bad? I have heard that it is.
Just want to warn you if your heading for Vietnam you'll find that kind of driving pretty much par for the course.One Idiot we had was driving at over 60mph through small towns blasting away at his horn to clear a path whilst talking on his phone and to his friend in the seat behind, not leaving much time to watch the road.This was from Quoy Non to Danang.I doubt he'll see old age.
Have observed this many times. Laos has a light population and is just emerging out of the stone ages in some respects. Laos guys given control of a nice van/suv drive fast to show they "got it", as in "I'm a f'n rockstar because I get to drive a car". Maybe how you felt when you were 16 and first felt that sense of awesomeness. It's still a novelty to be able to afford a car or to be employed to drive one. Thing is, they speed up even more when they appraoch any of those small villages in the hills. It's again their way of saying "I rule! Check me out!"
On a hitch-hike on the same route one time I just stopped putting my hand out, as every driver was so eager to show off like that I just said F-it and walked most of the way. You'll see a similar phenomenon with mobile phones. Young Lao kids (teens and 20s) have this thing for playing MP3 tunes (usually the current Thai pop hits) on their phones through the built-in speaker. Again what we would consider a run-of-the-mill gadget they can't get enough of showing off, "check me out, I got this cool phone that plays music". Very amusing to see it again and again the same pride in having a... phone. Upper-middle class snobbery.
Then check out the police chief's son and his buddies flying down the road in Vientiane at night in a $90,000 Dodge Viper. That's another story. (I'm keying the paintjob next time =)
You are a bit insulting, Bob. Stoneage? I don't think so. There is not much difference to Nong Khai for example, or perhaps you think Thais are in the Stoneage as well?
"Young Lao kids (teens and 20s) have this thing for playing MP3 tunes (usually the current Thai pop hits) on their phones through the built-in speaker." Really? I don't see much of this at all, and I work with kids. Dreaming on your part perhaps?
Having said this, yes, there are some crazy drivers here. There are also crazy drivers in Thailand and most Asian countries. However the motorcyclists are worse.
i didn't see an insult here at all, intentional or otherwise. i've seen this type of behavior in laos on recent trips, saw a lot of it a generation ago in thailand (and still see it there too), and saw a lot of it from my friends and me 30+ years ago when we were 16 and stupid and had access to cars for the first time as well. from sayadian's comment, it sounds like things are the same in vietnam. it is the way it is and it is something that visitors will want to be aware of when selecting their means of transportation or crossing the road.
in any case, the ride from VV to Vientiane will likely be just as fast but shouldn't be as bad since there aren't as many sharp mountain curves and such (flatter section of road). regards.
I think the use of 'stone age' is just metaphorical and as such conjurs up the picture admirably.It describes that 'novelty' thing well.
With the fact that the communists held back Laos for decades in isolation I find it's pretty apt.
There's a certain modern trend to quickly take offence on behalf of someone else.If some Laos teen wants to complain about it lets hear it.How does it affect you Rufus?
The journey from Luang Prabang to VV does have a lot of bends, to say the least. I took the big VIP bus, which was OK. The journey from VV to Vientiane is much flatter and you are less likely to feel queasy. Whether you get a decent driver is another question. We were scammed by the good folk of VV into buying a ticket for the VIP bus, which turned out to be an old wreck. Not just us, perhaps 50 - 60 people had all been sold the same ticket - expected VIP - got a heap of crap. Only time in Laos we were scammed - good ol' VV.
On kids showing off with mobile phones - doesn't that happen everywhere ? Kids round where I live seem to constantly have the damn things clamped to their ears. Oneupmanship is rife - many of the little darlings have IPhones. And even more annoyingly, they know which buttons to press to make it work.
And their parents are no better - 'Have you seen my new Blackberry ? Yah, I can send an email from the train'. Well they could if they could work it - I was with friends Saturday night and someone took 20 minutes to work out how to phone for a taxi.
Bob's comments were on the money.
Fifteen years ago there were almost no cars or motorcycles in Laos, most middle aged people grew up without the internal combustion engine, and many are some of the worst drivers you will see in Asia. Private vehicle are the worst, when middle aged acquaintances (or family) offer rides I ask for their teenager to drive. Many older people are deadly at any speed, all they need is some Scotch Whiskey to become a statistic.
I go for a local bus at the bus station every time. Owner operated. You can't drive one if you don't know how.
".How does it affect you Rufus?" How does it affect me? This is my permanent home; I have a Lao wife and family. Bob has a business in Thailand. One could just as easily say how does it affect him if I post that "All Thais in Chiang Mai are thieves and rogues. Don't do business with any of them.
I find his comment insulting. End of story.
VTBoy you're taking the "stone age" comment a bit too seriously. I meant that in a relative sense many up-country Lao and hillfolk still find things like passenger car operation and microchip hand-held gadgets to be a source of fascination and personal vanity, which is kind of cute or a bit absurd depending on your point of view. It represents a kind of innocence/coming-of-age that is far less common in Thailand. But Vientiane is another story, as it is rapidly modernising as I noted in a recent pictorial posting here:
Peace Bro - Life's good both sides of the Mekong.
My wife is from Isan and Kon Isan equates with 'country bumpkin' in Thailand.She knows this and never ever takes offence because sometimes it's true.A couple of years ago in Isan I was in a train station and this old man ambled in to wait for the train,only he squatted on the track.The railway man pointed out to him that he might get squashed.After a moments consideration he agreed to squat on the platform.This is an example.Stoneage?I don't know but certainly a sign of someone who was unfamiliar with the modern age.In the case of Laos, you have similar people whose background means they are sometimes alarmed or astonished at new things to the amusement of others.On the other hand the kids just want to show off.It's just part of life.I doubt your wife would be particularly upset about the realisation Laos has made this huge leap in such a short time and she'll probably laugh too when she sees others showing amazement at stuff she's been used to for years.I've even seen people from up Northern Thailand scream when they've seen running water out of a pipe for the first time.It's funny.
I think it's patronising to take offence on behalf of others.Usually they can see the joke.
Look, a lot of people out that way are pretty backward.Fact.
The guy just got a theory that that is causing the bad driving.He used the metaphorical example'stoneage.'
We all get called stuff when we travel to countries.If I took offence at half the stuff I hear in Thailand about foreigners (I speak Thai) I'd be forever arguing or worse.You think this guy calling some Laos people 'stoneage' is going to ruin your business.I doubt they'd care. In fact I've heard the Thais calling the Laos some pretty heavy stuff usually about this very thing.They are backward.
Blame your communist masters.
As far as driving is concerned.If someone is risking my life I'd call him a lot worse than 'stoneage'.His behaviour is moronic.
"Blame your communist masters." A running dog of the capitalists are we? The truth be known, the govt here is far better than the rabble in Thailand. (That's not saying much, I suppose). Abhisit couldn't run a brothel on a free day.
Borpenyang Bob; I may have over reacted a bit, but I get p****d off at the Thais casting aspersions on Lao, when they are an absolute rabble themselves. I think Kasit still hasn't come down from the trees.
Rufus you should never ever take offence at a little Lao bashing from across the river. I mean look where it's coming from.
Bob says stone age and we know he's being hyperbolic, you say thieves and rogues and, well...... we've all been to Thailand, ;-)
Don't ever be offended by the old ban nock thing either. Look at it this way, better to be a country person because you come from a place that is out in the country than to be a hick from a city of half a million. You ever heard Thai Nuah people talk? Sounds like Luang Namtha, so funny, makes pasa vang vien sound sophisticated.
And don't even let them start calling commie, just remind them that we aren't even allowed to talk about certain facets of the Thai way of ruling due to the rules of this web site. The Americans left all that behind in 1776, the Laotians in the 1970s, the Thais, still evolving.
Had to get in some Thai bashing while the getting was good, didn't realize there were more than Bob and Mac.
PS, which side do they drive on over there, the right, or the wrong ;-)
All we need now is someone to bring up the land issue betwen Cambodia and Thailand and we could start WW3.
I'm sure we can all agree on something,that is the driving in most of these countries could do with a tweek or two of improvement.
best bus trip ever in Laos was on the same route.
overnight ordinary bus from VTE to LPB.
close to middle-aged driver, seemed to know every bend & pothole along the unlit highway. smoothest ride ever.
helped that he didn't have to rush to cram the journey into the max 9-10 hour timeframe that tourists are promised for the VIP buses & vans.
wish i could clone him & replace 75% of long distance overnight bus drivers in Thailand with his clones.
drivers of the ordinary buses serving various routes to/within northern Phongsaly province are pretty good with the just-as-winding but unpaved & even narrower mountain roads there. as somsai pointed out, the drivers own the buses (& drive them home at the end of the day & wash them in their own backyard) - no way they'd want to risk obliterating their big investment & livelihood at the next bend in the road. for certain routes, they won't even set off if there has been heavy rain - they'd rather risk their own income than risk lives.
worst bus trip ever was on a tourist van.
Somsai, your post this morning made me smile. You are quite right.
My wife teases me and says I speak Lao like a native of Luang Prabang - slow and witth a drwal. I guess you could call me the Texan equivalent of Lao. We drive on the right side here. It was an easy transition for me as the right side is far more natural, despite the fact that I have driven on the left for years in Australia.
Thanks for posting about this. I'm glad I read Keatonec's tale of the mini bus. I'll get the VIP one instead.
Reading about the look at me, cars, vans and phones - they sound just like my lads when they had their first ever video game console. It was an Atari and they were proud as punch.
Blokes driving too fast, boys showing off with phones and playing loud music - sounds familiar. Sounds like a male thing, a case of mine's bigger than yours.
It's not in Laos Mac. In between the Thai/Lao bashing there's some info in this post. Many who take a "VIP" bus in Laos are disappointed. Sometimes they are better, sometimes much worse as the windows don't open and the AC is constantly off to save gas or just because it doesn't work.
I go to the bus station and actually look at the bus I'm getting on. I have a check list.
Driver high on meth? Check
Four spare tires carried in the aisle and on the roof because they don't have two good tires actually attached to axles? Check
Fifty bags of rice spread down the aisles as the bus is doing double duty carrying freight? Check.
Pool of oil somewhere in vicinity of transmission and a guy underneath making last minute repairs with bailing wire while coordinating with that kid in front with console open pushing on shifter lever? Check (special note no duct tape to be had in country)
Five guys on roof hurriedly removing the three bicycles two motorcycles and twenty boxes up on the roof rack and transferring them to something that might get there? Check.
I get on and sit up front to watch the show.
Had the same experience in St. Lucia and I was staying at a 5 star resort - seems anywhere where people are not educated they drive like maniacs. Afghanistan, Kenya, Jamaica, Laos, etc., ...... par for the course.
"seems anywhere where people are not educated they drive like maniacs. Afghanistan, Kenya, Jamaica, Laos, etc."
Stupid comment. Italians drive like maniacs as well. Further who the hell are YOU to call me pathetic. You come here, contribute nothing and post inanities.
correction, Italians drive fast not manical and have optional extras like brakes that work and lights at night.Your average 3rd world drongo hasn't got the imagination to see around the next bend!
They are real scarey.The only bus drivers any good in Asia are Thai.
I must say in my experience, relative to the Germans, Austrians and Swiss - their immediate neighbors I experienced, the Italians were pretty maniacal. I agree they do have working vehicles of course. And everything is relative. Relative to the Saudis, the Italians are great drivers.
Thais are horrible. They don't know what right looks like. The things I see every day living here never cease to amaze me. They can't drive, they can't park, they're selfish on the road... God knows I love Thais, but when it comes to driving, they just suck. Given the obervation here that they are better than the rest of the southeast asians - that's cause for concern. but most of the time, bus is your only option t get from point A to point B. So try and sit a little further back in bus, and use the seatbelt that's buried in the seat cause no one has every used it (I always have to dig around for ten minutes to find it).
God knows I love Thais, but when it comes to driving, they just suck.
Agree with that. When I do motorbike trips I'm actually relieved to cross the border into Laos, especially well away from Vientiane. Way less traffic on rural Laos roads due to the relatively lower population and % of which can afford a car or even a motorbike. The scariest thing on north rural Laos roads are the Chinese lorries - big blue bastards hauling cash crops out of Laos blundering around blind corners down the middle of the roadway. Oh and the King of Bus guys drive really bloody fast too, I've tried racing them and always lose. Aside from that and the occasional drunk father driving a Toyota Hilux Laos roads can be pretty peaceful. Then I cross back to Thailand at Friendship bridge and the Thai craziness re-appears down that big highway to Udon and the two-lane crazy blind overtaking on the way to Nong Bua Lamphu and beyond. In December/Jan Thai tourtist season we also get a lot of those tall brightly-colored private tour buses where the drivers race each other sometimes with deadly results.
Thais are generally more skillful at going fast than in other SEAsian countries. They also get killed a lot. I take the train as much as possible. More than many things high speed is unforgiving.
Americans who are big on statistics are more likely to die in a road accident than by any other means. After Mexico, where a heck of a lot of Americans go, Thailand, where there are very few Americans, is the place where most tend to cash in the chips.
I don't think you've been over here in a long time.Yes when the old orange buses ran they were maniacs,now I rate the Tour bus drivers in Thailand the safest in S.E.Asia.
The days of a bottle of mekong whiskey at the lunch stop are long gone.
You stated: "I don't think you've been over here in a long time"
I do. You are aware, I suppose, that Vientiane is a short distance from Nong Khai and Udon. Hence I go across regularly - about every 2 weeks. Further there are many Thai tour buses which come to Vientiane. The Thais are appalling drivers, certainly no better than the Lao; no worse, but no better.
Seems as though I have started an argument here. oops.
Just wanted to say that I thought that the trip from Vang Vieng to Vientiane was allot better than the first one. And also I personally do like the buses in Thailand allot better. Probably because they are bigger and the roads are much straighter. ( doesn't mean they drive any better though )
No,I haven't.If you say they are good I take your word for it.
Looking at a stationary bus doesn't count. ;-)
Go take the bus to Bangkok, I'll buy you a beer and you can tell me what it was like.
"Go take the bus to Bangkok,"
Now you are being really silly in an attempt to prove your initial incorrect comment was correct; I have taken numerous buses in Thailand including the one to Bkk, Khon Khaen etc etc.
They don't have orange buses anymore?
I've spent the odd day or two in Thailand every couple years and didn't realize. I liked them best, it's the super duper VIP go like a bat outa hell and pass on curves guys that I didn't like. They have those spectacular crashes with body counts in the hundreds.
I commuted an hour and a half daily out of Sri Racha a long time ago and it seemed like you'd see some poor motorcyclist doing his death twitch on the side of the road daily. Google tells me things haven't improved.
I love Sri Racha sauce! It goes great on spicy snacks or with eggs and rice. There are a few knock-off brands that are produced here in the states, but it just isn't the same thing.
Nice write-up on Sri Racha town too. Given how relatively close it is to the new airport, it looks like a good spot to hang out for a few days at the end of a trip while still being within striking distance of Swampy. Well done.
Look for the Buddha statue glued to the dashboard. They believe in reincarnation. Doesn't matter if they die, they'll come back for another round.
#48 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
I did the LP to VV road by bicycle at the end of 2008. Apart from the spectacular scenery and the hills that nearly killed me, the clearest memory I have is the sheer volume of used "chunder bags" on the side of the road. Certainly seemed to suggest that quite a few people should have avoided breakfast that morning :-)
#50 kipcole9 has been a member since 5/3/2009. Posts: 4
Ahhh.. the chunder bags! There is a lovely trail of them through Flores as well. Pretty blue, pink and yellow bags. People on the buses would continually hurl into the bag, tie a knot and toss it out the window. It's like following the breadcrumbs to Grandma's house. The young girl next to me must have gone through a dozen or more over a 4 hour journey, and it started 10 minutes into the trip. I nearly needed some myself. There must be a booming business in chunder bags in Asia.
This exact bus trip was perhaps the most terrifying experience i have ever had (being overly melodramatic, but this thread seems to be the place for that). I was honestly scared i would not make it out the other side. I was sitting on a little seat that folded out from the wall with no seatbelt, every time we would go over bumps the seat would bounce and it would jar my lower back. Fun times.....
Having said that, i did it with a bunch of really great blokes and i would not trade it for anything, although i would perhaps take the VIP bus next time.
@ sayadian - that story about the guy squatting on the train tracks is the best. If I ever get into copywriting that's going in a tv spot about new technology or something.
As for all this ballyhoo about the S word... you've got to be pretty damn sensitive to get upset about an innocent crack like that. I mean, what kind of eggshells do you have to tread on around here?