Hitchhiking in Central Laos

Trip Start Nov 05, 2008
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Trip End Jun 23, 2009


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I did not expect the journey from Savannakhet to Vientiane to be quick or easy, especially the way I did it. The Minaxai's house happened to be on the main road going north, so I started walking and looking for a ride again. I still wasn't sure what the right hand signal was, so I just raised my hand which resulted in about 10 tuk-tuk drivers asking me where I wanted to go with $$ signs in their eyes. I eventually hopped on the back of a pickup local bus, which had no room inside, so I stood on the back for about an hour until we reached the next town. After dropping me off in a small, dusty town, I continued walking north and flagged down a minivan with 3 other locals in it that offered to take me to Thakhek (about halfway to Vientiane) for no money and Vientiane for...let's just say a lot. The driver was a little crazy: He would just start talking in Lao really loudly and no one would respond so he would blast the stereo, which was playing to usual terrible, sappy Thai pop music. I tried to make conversation with him, but he would just shake his head, then 5 minutes later he'd say something almost not expecting a reply, very strange. Then he would drive really slowly on the highway for no reason and made about 15 stops along the way to talk to people at fruit stands. I guess I can't complain after getting a free ride, but this was the only guy I was a little hesitant about. After 3 hours of his nonsense, I was happy to look for a different ride.

This was the most challenging part of my hitchhiking adventure. I waited/walked for about 2 hours with no luck what so ever. The closest thing to a ride was a pickup truck that took me 5 km down the road and turned down a dirt road, so I told them to stop. Then, a sedan with about 7 people already packed in it stopped and asked me something in Lao and the only way I would've fit was if I dove across the back seat on top of 5 other Lao people. With the sun starting to set and my stomach starting to growl, I decided to give up for the day and got a ride back into town and crashed at the first guesthouse I saw. At this point, I had only eaten bananas and crackers the whole day, so I was absolutely starving. The guesthouse was kind enough to lend me their bike that was big enough for a 8 year old, so I biked the 5km to the center of town. The first restaurant I saw in the dumpy town of Thakhek had the most delicious BBQ chicken pizza I've ever had (maybe just because I was so hungry, but it was still really good). Then I met some other travelers and we stumbled upon a local fundraising event with dancing and drinking Beer Lao and we all participated in both for a few hours. I had the honor of leading one of the dances, which is like line dancing with some wavy hand movements. I was so tired by the end of the night, I could barely bike back to my guesthouse.

The next day, I was determined to find success with hitchhiking, so I set out again on the same road that took me 2 hours the day before with no luck. After about 30 minutes, I managed to haggle with one of the big buses to take me halfway to Vientiane for 2 dollars which dropped me off in Paksan and I was still about 2 hours from the capital. Paksan, another small town on the way had nothing to offer, so I tried to hitch again. This time, a truck pulled over and two young Lao guys in their 20s who spoke some English said they would give me a ride to Vientiane, but not for an hour because they wanted to visit friends....8 hours later, we ended up leaving...The guys picked up 2 of their friends and took me to their family picnic in the countryside for about 2 hours. Then we drove an hour in the opposite direction just to get the driver's car washed, so we waited and ate sugar cane and drank Beer Lao. I realized that I was on Lao time, which means time is not really a factor of the day, so waiting around and hanging out for hours is normal and I have gotten very used to it.

We got to Vientiane at about 8pm and I was ready to sleep, so the guys dropped me off at a guesthouse they knew of and we said our goodbyes. The capital city was not very impressive in terms of activity and is mostly a place for travelers to pass through. There are a number of temples to visit and some nice cafes, but there wasn't much to do there. I was more excited to get to Vang Viang, the most hyped up place so far in my travels.

Next Stop: Spring Break in Laos???
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Comments

estherandmort
estherandmort on

Jan. 7 entry
Hey, Luke,
Don't get too used to the lack of interest in time!!
You must be awfully skinny!!

I am so impressed with your writing! I think you should think about a career in travel writing. Then you can continue to travel and get paid for it. Let's talk when you return. We/you can polish up your blogs and submit them to travel book publishers, or companies-but be sure they are copyrighted first. Gramps once had an article he wrote about an island in the Carribean published in the Travel Section of the NYTimes!

Keep on sending entries!!

Much love, Grammy

doriastories
doriastories on

monkeying around in Laos
Hi Luke, I am loving your postings! In particular, that video of a monkey scuttling around was pretty funny. Where did you film it exactly, in the temple? That's a pretty devout monkey. And the kids were cute, I heard you speaking Lao, I think. Watch out for those tuk-tuk drivers, sheesh.
love,
Dori

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