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Savannakhet, Laos - Direct from the Source.

Savannakhet, Laos


So, following a couple of days in Laung Prabang, it was time to hit the road. I had originally intended to fly to Vietianne but the flights were booked so I hopped on the bus. What a bus ride it was! I was told it would take 6 hours to get there...but, of course, we are talking about laos time. For whatever reason, I continue to believe them when they tell me how long these rides will take! Must be all the smiling they do. At any rate, it was an arduous journey. The first six hours was NONSTOP twisting roads. And I mean nonstop! I was not expecting it at all (where were you with that tidbit of info Lonely Planet?!). Thankfully, I've been taking a motion sickness tablet that works like magic! It doesn't make me sleepy and does the trick. I can even eat! It truly has made all the difference. But, despite the tablet, the bus journey was still grueling.

I did meet some nice people on the bus. A nice guy from Oz (Gold Coast, of course) and a retired couple from Brisbane and a newlywed couple (she was Australian and he was Japanese). The guy got off the bus a stop before me and the other two couples landed in Vietianne with me. It took not six hours, but nine. Granted, we did have to have a tire changed, but that only accounted for 30 minutes.

why so long then you ask? well, that brings me to the cultural lesson of the day. Laos transportation.
Here's how it works. As I mentioned before, the drivers operate on Laos time. This means you never leave on time. And you never arrive on time. There are some VIP buses out there for some routes (this means it's a direct bus to the location you want) but sometimes you have no choice but to go with the public bus.

To give you an example of how the public bus operates, I will use today. I left Savannakhet this morning at 10:30ish (see above regarding the ish comment). I'm fairly certain that the journey to Paske is probably only 3 hours. How long did it take? Five hours.

It started out well. The driver actually left only a couple of minutes late. Typically there is the driver and a co-pilot of sorts who sits at the front of the bus. He helps load baggage and handles the money/tickets. So off we go! Kind of... We then spent the next 45 minutes driving about 5 mph going through town as the bus driver beeped the horn to let the whole world know the Paske bus was coming through! We picked up more people as he went. Finally, after 45 minutes or so, we picked up speed and were going about 40 mph!

Then it's a typical public bus because everybody's gotta eat!!! The bus driver beeps his horn as we get close to a food stall stand and then he pulls over. Some people get off the bus to pee and others stay on. There's never anything said to the passengers so you have no idea if this is a long stop, a short stop or what. I caught on it was a long stop when I saw the driver and his two co-pilots sitting around a table eating! After all, it was noon and we'd already been on the road a whole whopping hour and a half!!!!

For those of us on the bus, we were treated to a group of women coming on board to sell their foods..... kebabs of various grilled meats. Each woman had a bunch of kebabs in each hand. finally, we get back on the road. We pick up more people on the way including a man with some 35 bags of grain (the size of a regular cement bag)!!! So, of course, that took quite a while as the co-pilots considered whether or not they could fit it all on, etc. We get going and then, before you know it, we pull over. A woman had requested this stop. I thought she was getting off the bus (that would be silly!) She wanted to buy some grilled meats at the food stall!!!!

Then, an hour later, it's another stop. And so on and so on. It's actually quite painful (can you tell). To add to the whole experience, there is ALWAYS cheesy Laos/Thai love pop songs playing. Loudly. Everyone seems to love it and it's all about the same thing (girl likes boy, he doesn't know she exists or he is cheating on her or whatever). But this trip was extra special as we had a TV on board so not only did we listen to the music but we got to see the videos (and the lyrics in both Thai and Lao which appeared karoke style, I kid you not). The music videos were too funny! They would depict the lovelorn male/female...adults but they acted like high school kids! Public displays of affection are not accepted here so the videos would never show couples kissing, instead, they would just look at each other, bat their eyelashes and look away. Or, a common theme, they would gaze at a photo of them as a couple on their cell phones and then slowly, dramatically, bring the phone to their lips and kiss it! Or, they would draw hearts in the air while lying on their hello kitty bedsheets (I'm not kidding) or they would call their girlfriend on their cell phone while in a trench in some war (hopefully you are laughing as hard as I did). Honestly, I felt like the main character from a Clockwork Orange by the time we arrived.

A special shout-out to Bloc Party, Home Video, Placebo and New Order....I could not have survived without you!
Needless to say, the trip was exhausting and I couldn't wait to get off the bus! I am now in Paske, southern Laos. From Vietianne, I travelled to Savannkhet where i spent the day and night. I was planning to stay another day but woke up to rain and decided it was time to go (another deciding factor was my guesthouse....very clean, cosy....the condom packet in the room should have been a giveaway...didn't realize people would actually be using them that night..but sure enough at 12:30, 1:30 and through the night I might as well have been sleeping in a brothel--I'll leave the rest to your imagination). It was time to go!

So that is that. Will plan to email again tomorrow. Miss you all and drop me an email and let me know what's cookin'!

Nuttter


permalink written by  Groovespook on July 29, 2009 from Savannakhet, Laos
from the travel blog: Nuttter's S.E. Asian Escapade
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admit it - you've been kissing that picture of Porly Porl on your cell phone while laying around on your hello kitty bedsheets that you brought with you. you know its true. Aside from that, sounds like you are having a BLAST!

permalink written by  Ro on July 30, 2009


Awesome.

Your writing makes me feel like I'm there. Or perhaps it's the 90% humidity that has recently descended upon Jersey.

permalink written by  Stu on July 30, 2009

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