Monday, 13 May 2013

THE 24hr journey from hell...Part 1

Vang Vieng to Tha Khek:

So we awoke around 10am I went to get my washing but it wasn’t finished yet, got it 15min later and it was still damp, yay! Packed and checked out then headed to the travel agent to drop our bags and then went to Banana restaurant to have lunch and watch some Friends, as was the tradition here, every restaurant had lounge seats and either had Friends on repeat, or South Park or films and we hadn’t really done it yet so we HAD to take part in a long-held tradition of Vang Vieng. Then we got taken to the bus station for the beginning of the trek down to Kong Lo Cave, a 7km cave following a river through a mountain, it was apparently one of the highlights of Laos and in a pretty area so we thought, why the hell not! Maybe we should have thought it through more...

So our “VIP” bus arrived, it was like a granny bus from the 70’s, plastic covered seats with stains on them, the air-con wasn’t working, and oh yes, typical of S.E.Asia, it had been overbooked! Luckily we found seats pretty early (through a bit a queue-skipping to get our bags on and some elbow fighting here and there), and sweattled (see what I did there?) into our 4 hour journey to Vientiane. The bus was early into Vientiane’s northern bus station - that was about our only luck on this epic journey.

We then waited around for an hour at the bus station as we were told our company would pick us up and take us to the southern bus terminal, which it did eventually (as it started off then realised it had forgotten 3 people so we had to turn back – for our own sanity we had to laugh and everyone repeated what we’d just said/done so it was like a replay scene, yes, this IS entertainment when you travel and do this kind of thing every other day). So it was another 30mins until we arrived there.

Then we had 20mins to grab some snacks (didn’t have time to have a meal) and hop to the loos, before boarding our “sleeper” bus...oh look, it’s a local bus with broken seats that either go back too far so that you are literally sitting horizontally OR don’t go back at all! Yippee! So we tried getting seats to ourselves, but seriously, we must have been tripping because who thinks there is that kind of luxury on a bus, with LOCAL PEOPLE!

So on they all piled, a grandmother breastfeeding her grandchild, two monks who sat behind us, then there were no seats left because the ‘compact, flatscreen televisions’ in MASSIVE big-ass boxes were taking up half the bus. Seriously, who brings THAT MANY T.V’s on a bus!! So proceeded the box-moving task, and me and Devyn had them all piled up in front of us, of course, and then MORE people got on the bus, but luckily there wasn’t enough space for the 3 massive pot-plants (seriously they looked like TREES) and the 10 people transporting them, so they stayed behind.

So we waved goodbye to Vientiane at 8pm and set off on what was to be a 4hr journey, which turned into a 6hr journey. Down seriously bumpy roads, the air-con was intermittent, my seat had broken and so I was unable to sleep well as I was lying all the way back, with my feet still on the floor – great for stretching the back, just not for 6hrs! So we arrived in Tha Khek at 2.30am, got a tuk tuk (during the drive Maaike cheered us up by telling us a story showing us how our situation could be worse, it made us laugh anyway!) to our guesthouse we’d booked through the Lonely Planet (bear in mind this place was a ‘Top Choice’), entered our room...where was the extra bed we needed and paid for, we need three towels, and oh, the electrics kept cutting out!

So the third bed actually ended up being two mattresses on the floor, Devyn showered in the dark while I went out to remind the reception staff that we had no lights, no air-con and no fan...only to find they had both gone back to sleep!! So once we got sorted out, we looked up what we had to do tomorrow (looked like we had to take a bus and then a tuk tuk to get to Kong Lo Village, sounded easy), had a brief 5hrs sleep, ready to continue the journey tomorrow!

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