The Southern Bus Station

Trip Start Jan 01, 2013
1
4
11
Trip End Jan 21, 2013


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, Louangphabang,
Thursday, January 3, 2013

These transit waiting times seem to the best time for blogging (yes I feel like a wanker using the word blogging).

I'm sitting in the bus bound for Sayoboury (or Sayanbouli, Xaianbuly depending on who you speak to) and after 4 hours on this ultra glamorous vehicle, I am hopefully being met by a 'sawngteau' (ute with bench seats in the back) to take me to the Nam Kan River District where the sanctuary is. The bus is old, everything is strapped to the top (bags, boxes, rice...motorbikes??), and the inside will soon be crammed beyond capacity. The atmosphere is friendly though. Yesterday I met a family of 18 people! After a while chatting they decided I needed to be included in their family portrait at the airport!

When I landed in Luang Prabang I fell in love! I had an incredible time exploring LP, first on foot, then I decided to skip the bicycle (couldn't do it) and hire a scooter and brave the Asian traffic. (Sorry parents!!). There were some scary moments and a lot of locals laughing at some of my rookie mistakes but I had fun. I cruised along the Mekong river and zipped around the streets and around the hills. The town is lush, small and in keeping with its World Herritage listing its filled with wooden, French colonial style buildings. Cafes, galleries, restaurants, shops. There are quite a lot of tourists but it seems the party animals are all in Vang Vieng tubing, and just the friendly, relaxed ones are left.

Then last night I found the most amazing bar/ restaurant. Very much like the setting of the beach. It was so relaxing and I could have stayed for days. It was all wooden, airy, lit with candles. Cushions, low line tables and sheeshas filled the main bungalow. There was also a huge deck handmade out of bamboo and lined with cushions and matts. There I found a spot to drink 3 mojitos, listen to music and eat food overlooking the river and someone's veggie farm. I met some other travellers and then went contentedly to beddy byes (after a short but sweet Skype call ;)

Back to today. Again, another early start! I arrived at the bus station 2 hours early but I'm glad I did. Not because it was busy but because I then had time to try food from some different stalls and drink some delicious Laos coffee. Dark, strong and sweetened with condensed milk- delicious! Somehow different and much lovelier than the Vietnamese counterpart. There are coffee plantation in Laos (I've read) and their coffee has a great flavour! I also had some noodles and some pork off the BBQ which was so yummy! Again I tried out my Laotion and scored 2 free bananas and some biscuits for my efforts and my smiles. At the same small stall a US tourist wanted to pay for her 35000kip breakfast in US$ and then argue about the exchange rate. I couldn't believe it!

Currently there is some controversial action happening on the bus. From what I've read, (and then experienced on another lao bus trip) the unofficial bus seating arrangement is thatpeople come and put something on the seat to reserve it. The unfortunate late comers are stuck with the free standing plastic stools which will be haphazardly placed in the isle- the ultimate in (un)safety and (dis)comfort... Harsh but fair :).

2 Tourists have decided that the seat numbering system is a better way to go and have asked local people to get up to give them their seats. And now that they are enforcing the seat number rule its forcing other people to go to their allocated seats and boot other people out.... It's a crazy circle ;)

One Laotian matriarch has taken matters into her own hands. She grabbed my ticket, checked the number and booted the guy in my assigned seat out and has proceeded to rearrange the rest of the 70 person bus (made to seat 50). Maybe it's a sign of the times, traditions giving way to western style systems.

I'm not sure of the numbering system for the stools though!! Off to Sayaboury we go :)

Turns out a man holding a baby was a stool sitter. So I offered to swap. The stools are as dangerous and uncomfortable as I'd imagined. They slide, jump, tip (the first 2 hours were fun but after 5 hours of riding I was sore!) But I think I earned some good karma and when dad, mum and baby got off the bus I got smiles, waves and even blown a kiss from bub :)
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