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Across Laos in a Plastic Chair

Across Laos in a plastic chairWe waken up in Vang Vieng to the sound of rain battering against the windows and look out to see grey, overcast skies and flooded, muddy roads. Hoping that the rain will stop, we sit in the Organic Farm Cafe, enjoy a lovely, long breakfast, and chat to a couple of cyclists on a 4000km round trip of south east Asia. As we'd been unable to find any other guidebooks in Bangkok, we too ended up with a Lonely Planet, and looking through it we discover that apart from a few local walks, it doesn't cover any treks in the area.

Finally, after watching the rain pour down for a long time we come to the conclusion that it's going to be raining for the whole day, and between the awful weather, and our lack of trekking info, we decide that returning another time on another trip with local maps is a better option than hanging around in the hope that the weather will be better tomorrow.

When we enquire at the guest-house about the departure times of local buses, we're told that there aren't any - they only want to sell us tickets for the vip buses; and there aren't any of those for hours! Looking down the road, however, I see a vip bus sitting there, and going out to ask, they tell me it's about to leave for Vientiene. We grab our bags and jump aboard, but there turns out to be little need to rush, as, after going around the corner, it simply stops in the car park for an hour.

More and more backpackers gradually get on, until finally, the bus is packed, and they come around collecting tickets. Discovering that we don't have any, the crack-head staff, who always seem to work on backpacker buses, go crazy - screaming at us, and insisting that we buy tickets. Of course we'll buy tickets, and we give them the money. Still people keep coming on board, and the staff now return, realising that they don't have enough space, screaming at us again, that we now have to give up our seats. Trying to remain chilled, as we don't really care where we sit as long as we get to Vientiene, we get out of our seats, wondering what they've got in store for us now. Even we're surprised, however, when they bring on board two plastic chairs from a cafe, put them in the aisle, and tell us to sit in them! I burst out laughing, asking if we get seat-belts and making jokes about it being vip transport, but no-one seems very amused.

Finally, the bus leaves, while we try to hang on whilst our hard plastic chairs bend and roll from side to side as the bus goes around bends. There's only backpackers onboard, no locals at all, and although we're travelling through beautiful countryside, everyone just seems absorbed in their own little world - reading and listening to music, with no-one looking out of the windows enjoying the scenery. It's like we're insulated from the real Laos on an air-conditioned package tour for backpackers with everyone being bussed from guest-house to the door of the next guest-house, then sitting in front of a television every night; going across the world to find everything they left at home.

After a long four hours in hard, uncomfortable, plastic seats we're glad to reach Vientiene. It's still raining, and Carita immediately suggests heading back across the border to Thailand; I readily agree. We grab our bags and walk away from it all through wet streets and catch a minibus to the border. There we're lucky enough to grab the last two sleeper spaces of the day on the train back to Bangkok, and we're delighted to be heading there, even though we have to sleep in different carriages.


Dude! What a trip! How's thinsg? Sorry for not getting back, but things have been a nightmare here. I had enough of those english rosbiefs and I'm planing to leave for good.

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