Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
85Trip End Dec 24, 2011
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Its a 5-6 hour journey to Pakse, depending on stops and breakdowns, and there is a French guy going the same way do we share a tuk-tuk to the bus terminal. He chats to the driver who speaks fluent French; an over hang from French rule here in the last century.
The bus leaves at half 10 and a hour into the trip we pull over to the side of the road where a dozen ladies board the bus selling snacks for the journey. The most impressive of these are their BBQ'd offerings; on sticks in rows of 3 or 4 you can buy everything from fish to whole baby birds to crickets and frogs. The smell these sticks fill the bus with is quite nice!
Desperate to make a sale, the ladies stay on the bus as we begin to move again, finish their transactions, and then leap off the moving vehicle
The last hour and a half of the journey is almost entirely dropping people off, sometimes only a few hundred yards between each stop. At one point we pick up two motorcycles which are hauled (somehow) onto the roof.
For the entirety of the journey Jo has a splitting ear ache and as a result this is the worst bus journey we have done yet in Laos; we usually find the comings and goings plenty to keep us entertained.
To further add to the discomfort when we arrive it is at Pakse's Northern bus terminal. 9km from the city centre. We have to take a 30,000kip (each) tuk-tuk into town making the cheap bus ticket no longer seem so cheap.
We can't be bothered to search endlessly for the best deal so we take a pricey ($10!!!) room at the Royal Pakse Hotel. Its not that royal except for the fact that there are clean sheets and a TV in the room; our view is still of a brick wall 3 inches from our window.
After this we go in search of a pharmacy or doctor to look at Jo's ear. After many mis-directions and a couple of rude unhelpful falang (way to go team!) Claire manages to find Jo some Thai ear drops that are cheap and don't make her ear drum burn so therefore must be OK.
We finally manage some food, having now well passed lunch time, and then have one drink after before heading to bed exhausted, where Claire manages to pull the largest piece of wax out of Jo's ear either of them have ever seen. Claire condiers surgeon as her next career move.
Despite all this we like the look of Pakse; its busy and the streets are full of interesting shops and restaurants. They all still close at 10pm though of course.
Jo heads out to buy coffee as this is Laos' famous coffee growing region and leaves Claire to sleep in a pitch black room devoid of natural light. When the sun comes up for Claire it is in a matter of seconds, as the florescent strip bulb over head flickers on. Ouch. Not a happy Nolan.
We have received an email from Swiss Judith saying she will be in Pakse tonight and if we're still interested in travelling to the Bolaven Plateau with her, she is too. Brilliant. We plan to meet her later. Somehow.
We take the morning off from being (mildly) intrepid and get some admin done; namely laundry, blog and breakfast.
By the time all that gets done its the evening and we go in search of a bar before dinner, finding ourselves led into one by a toad that Claire almost accidentally treads on. Here we watch dogs walk in the road oblivious to traffic and an old army truck, still with gun fixed at the back but also a huge sound system and flashing lights, boom past. Weird.
Afterwards we head back onto the main road and find Judith sitting in a restaurant there. We make plans to travel around the Bolaven Plateau with her in the coming days by MOTORBIKE. GOOD TIMES. Whilst we chat about our plans the owner's daughter, who is about 2, runs back and forth across the restaurant in her PJ's, wireless microphone in hand, screaming into the restaurant's karaoke machine.
We also meet one of the owner's friends, a Canadian guy who works for a locally based Canadian NGO. He has been in Laos for 11 years and works on various projects including building libraries for local people and fighting big corporations that want to take over their land to turn them into commercial plantations (which they often then have them work on for pittance). We decide that we have a place to leave our Laos books should we not pass them on in the coming two weeks.