Hi....I originally wrote the following email on 9 August 2004 to friends a couple of days after the event. At the time, I was angry and somewhat traumatised by the experience. I now bare no ill feeling against the Laotians and I'm actually thankful for the experience. Its what travelling is all about.
Where shall I begin....take some time to read this....
Remember Em and I had a 24 hour bus journey between Laos and Vietnam? Vientienne to Hue, (perhaps the distance between glasgow and plymouth) We booked a bus and paid 17 dollars each to a Laotian lady who had a disconcerting glint in her eye. The bus was meant to pick us up at our hotel at six. The tuk-tuk arrived an hour late and we were taken to the "bus station". The "Bus Station" was the Laos equivalent of a 'greasy Lils' transport cafe. The place was run by a midget (honestly, she looked a bit like 'Nik-Nak' from the James Bond movies) and was packed with drunken Laotian men, who were sat stuffing their faces with pickled eels and eyeing Emma's boobs without any concern to my presence. Emma and I felt that this trip was going to be special. To our horror, the bus arrived, we were the only westerners to clamber aboard. In your minds eye, try to imagine the most flea infested, filthy decrepit bus you'd ever have the misfortune to travel aboard. Now multiply that vision by five and hopefully you will have a picture of the bus from hell that Emma and I had to sit on. There were hungry mosquitos relaxing in the seats, grime and filth on the headrests, half the seats had been ripped out and replaced with various crates of farm produce (complete with insects) and plenty of booze and supplies for the DRIVERS!!!. There was also a godammn caged bird which shit on my ruck sack and did nothing but screech throughout the whole journey. The promised 'air conditioning' came in the form of open windows. Em's face was a picture. Our fellow travellers were a motley crew of the most ill mannered, chain smoking, phlegm wretching, contemptuous bunch you'd never invite to share your personal space with. We spotted some of the Laotians blowing their noses on the coachs window curtians. Em and I were in tears as the bus coughed, spluttered and lurched its to Vietnam. Oh, by the way, it left almost four hours late!
As the bus leaves, the driver puts on a CD of the most bizarre music I'd ever heard. It sounded like pots and pans being thrown about a kitchen and some helium voice child screeching the following lyrics - BONG JONG TING TANG BONG JING TONG MONG! This music accompanied us for the next 36 HOURS!!!!! Luckily, I had walkman but a depressing deficiency of batteries.
We finally feel asleep at about 01:00 am, only to be woken again at 02:00am as the bus lurched, for the next three hours, from side to side at 45 degree angles, as it bumped and grinded across Loatian pot holes. The rain also began to come down in sheets and an incessant drip began torturing us and soaking our cramped seats. At about 06:00am the bus began a smooth ride across a smoother road. Em and I settle down for some Laos kip. Suddenly the bus screeches to a halt and we all receive a jolt. Now, have you ever seen landslides on TV? Trees and boulders, the size of small cars, spread out across the road and mud four feet deep. Well, thats what the bus had just driven into. By now Em and I are desperate! For the next six hours we sat in a bus that had just driven into a landslide with no food, little water, no information as to how we were going to get out and the tiny little matter that the bus was not traveling to Hue but Hanoi! So rather than going from glasgow to plymouth, we were now perhaps headed to the sound of france. Em was begining to panic and I, well I, just sat staring into space like a zombie.
A bulldozer finally turns up and clears our way....but now were headed to the wrong border exit. We were repeatedly told the bus was going to Laos Baos but we ended up heading for a border crossing in the mountains where the it was very possible that the Vietnam border guards would not let us in. Sh*t!"
We were both so happy climbing those mountains, the driver twisting around hair pin bends like he were taking part in the whacky races and the comforting thought that we might get dumped out of the bus at the border! However, the Vietnamiese guards treated us, suspiciously but with more grace than the drivers of the bus and they let us in. Not before Em's visit to a maggot infested toilet.....
We crossed the border and we were immediatly taken to a Vietnamiese transport cafe...someones house in the middle of nowhere....we were invited to sit with the family for a dinner of boiled chickens feet, eyeballs, giblets, crown, parsons nose and beak! I shit you not! Em and I were on the brink of shedding real tears. I vietnamese/laotian travelling companions tucked in hungrily but soon began spitting chewed bones and gristle onto the floor near our feet. We we most charmed but at least we didn't have to pay as we had no money expect for about seventy pounds of worthless Laos Kip!
Four dreary hours later, the drivers kindly (mercifully) dropped us off at a town called Vinh, maybe 500km from our intended destination.
We booked into the Saigon Kim Lien hotel. We stank, we were covered in mozzy bites, we were half starved and absolutely mentally drained. We were so elated to have a shower, a beer and a bed. It was a nightmare.....completely...
If you ever go travelling......never ever ever ever risk booking any tickets from dodgy little outfits in Laos...or whereever....be careful. When we got to Hue we heard credible stories of western travellers disappearing off the face of the earth during these type of journeys.
We're now in Hue, sipping beer and feeling extremely content...happy but scarred for life!
Thanks for bearing with me...
rq and ec
#1 ironmonkey has been a member since 21/7/2005. Posts: 5