Since we only have 8 weeks to hit up 6 countries, we are eliminating most our transit time by swapping 24+ hour bus rides for hour-long flights. However, we do have some grueling ground transpo slated in our itinerary. The first of which we assumed would be a semi-painless 6-hour bus ride from Luang Prabang, south to Vang Vien. We boarded our “VIP” bus – equipped with AC and this lovely bathroom – around 8 AM and ignored both our assigned seats and the scornful looks of other passengers as spread our belongings and stretched our limbs across the back 6 seats of the bus, effectively marking our territory. Little did we know, our comfort would be our demise. We slept soundly as uncalculated hours flew by as quickly as the changing scenery. When we woke, we noticed that during our slumber the passengers aboard nearly doubled, and as the sky grew dark, we started to sense something was ominously wrong. We finally asked someone, with telling knots in our stomachs, where we were headed and soon realized we’d passed right through Vang Vien, and were now headed 4 hours further South to the Capitol city, Vientien. For some reason, instead of crying, panicking, screaming or jumping off the moving bus – all options my mind quickly assessed and debated, we instead became unhinged with hysterical laughter. There was nothing that could be done at that point but wait out the unnecessary 4 hours to Vientien where we would immediately try to catch a bus back for a grand total of an 8 hour detour – keep in mind, our full travel time was originally 6 hours.
We arrived at the bus stop at 7 PM and found there was a night bus at 8 PM. Only one problem: We were penniless in a bus station without an ATM or credit card machine in sight. We took a tuk-tuk 25 minutes into town and at the first sight of a neon lights flashing the letters “ATM”, we jumped out of the slowly moving vehicle without paying – no time for minor legalities at this point – and quickly withdrew cash. We frantically hailed another tuk tuk and raced the clock back to the bus station, arriving 5 minutes before the last departure of the night, just enough time to buy our tickets and the bare essentials for the next leg of our journey – two bottles of Beer Laos to wash down the stresses of the day.
This bus, the “night bus” consisted of two rows of bunk beds where Kaela and I were assigned one top bunk to share and forced to spoon towards the window to avoid the stares and camera flashes of every other person on the bus – yes, we were the only white-ies, and apparently the only white girls they’d ever seen.We finally arrived at midnight after 16 hours of bus transit through the bumpy, windy, mountainous countryside of Laos and remembered by we love flying so much.