Oh My God, My Ass Hurts!!
I am so f***ing tired and my ass hurts!! 30+ hours of sitting in boats, buses and pick-ups is not good for one’s body. I have traveled from the southernmost point of Laos to Vang Vieng, the gateway to the north. We left Don Det early in the morning by motorized canoe and went to Nakasong to catch the bus to points north. However, as most of you know things are never that easy in the back end of the world. Our bus was full, and I mean FULL, but the drivers of the bus insisted they had room and proceeded to throw our bags up, up, up onto the load. We decided that our bags should come down, down, down from the load and thus started a battle between east & west.
Normally, I could not have cared less about getting on a bus like this. One’s sense of what is safe and what is not safe in terms of transportation is radically different when traveling. What is a deathtrap at home is wonderful if it gets you there when abroad. In this case though, major alarm bells were ringing. They wanted to cram the girls in our party into the bus and the lads onto the roof, not a problem in most cases but it meant us blokes would be riding with the dead fish, pissing chickens and a very obviously unstable load loosely tied to the roof, and for the lasses it would mean standing in a part of the bus which was clear because the dead fish and pissing chicken juice was draining into that part of the bus.
Eventually we decided to take matters in this battle into our own hands and we jumped on the roof ourselves and retrieved our own bags. It did not end the shouting by the Laos who were upset at losing their farlang fares. We saved ourselves the disaster in the making. Eventually, with the help of the locals, we got ourselves a willing truck driver who would take the group of six us as far north as Pakse, which cost us the princely sum of $200,000 kip ($40cdn). Myself and an English couple decided to venture onto Vientiane and hopped the bus to the capital. Oh my! What a brave and foolish decision that was. Riding the back of a pick-up truck for four hours only primed my tender spots for the 17-hour bus trip ahead. Up and down, side to side, upon hard, uncomfortable, non-shock absorbing seats. Through darkness, and through rain, through thunder and lightning, Lao buses keep going and going…
Upon reaching Vientiane, the English couple decided to head for a guesthouse and I, through some momentary lapse of judgment, decided to keep going. After all, I had only been on the road for 24 hours at this point. I had already seen the sights in Vientiane and deflected the local working girls and hey, what was a little more road dust…
The cruel tricks your mind plays on you, how your judgment alters when affected by pain. How I longed to be finished with this journey and just crawl into a bed and wait there in blissful sleep till awakened by my friends arriving from Bangkok early the next morning. Why, why, I thought to myself, did I say I would be in Vang Vieng to meet them the next day, and why was I in a rush to get there the day before them? I know… Sleep, I just wanted sleep, except for my ass, I just wanted that to wake up!
Anyway, I chose to ride that last pick-up truck, I chose that final six hours of pain and torture. But all bad things must come to an end and I eventually, punch drunk with sleep deprivation, made it to Vang Vieng and my rendezvous with my friends one day early. Of course, they arrived TWO days late… but that is another story.
Plain of Jars
Seeing as I had to kill two days waiting I thought I would share some of my wisdom of the road in Laos with you…
A Little Road Wisdom
I recently went to Laos for two weeks. After 2½ months and with my visa running out, I had to leave this incredible country. A little of the wisdom I learned here includes some of the following:
- When you order “gai” (chicken), be prepared to wait for your dinner while they chase the chicken down, cut off its head, pluck it and cook it for you, all while you watch.
- To the outside world the official name of the country is PDR Laos – Peoples Democratic Republic of Laos. For those who have been there, PDR Laos = Please Don’t Rush Laos. Lao time is far slower than Thai time. Far, far slower.
- If you don’t like math, don’t come to Laos. They use three different currencies here. Lao kip, Thai Baht, and US Dollars. You have to be able to juggle the currencies and do the conversions between them easily to figure out your best deals and if you do this well, there are some great deals.
- When ordering food from a street vendor don’t even try asking what it is. Even if you could understand the answer, you probably would not like what they said. So just enjoy the food.
- When ordering from a restaurant you will be lucky if 50% of the food that shows up is actually the food you ordered. If you make any changes to that order then your chances drop to 5%.
- Never order the same food twice at a restaurant. Guaranteed it will be completely different the second time around and not even resemble the original food you ordered before and enjoyed.
- The average sized Lao is way smaller (shorter/slimmer) than a westerner. Think about the implications of this – chairs, bus seats, beds, DOORS!!
- Learn to love Valium. Valium makes that 16-hour torture known as modern transportation (the bus) actually possible. Otherwise, if you are a serious S&M freak, come on down….
- Try and mail something from Lao to home. Come on…try it!!! I dare ya!!! This country is still communist and the mail runs on a 5-year plan.
- The people of Laos are INCREDIBLE. Beautiful, friendly, and full of life. If you come here you will love it.