Dien Bien to Luang Praban...almost
Trip Start Feb 19, 2011
62Trip End Aug 29, 2011
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Where I stayed
Brothel near the pier
There's only one bus a day from Dien Bien (Vietnam) to Laos and it leaves at 5:30am. Why does it leave so early? We think its because the roads and buses are so bad they need all day to get to the Lao border even though its only 30km away, and then a further 57km to Muong Khiaw. Apparently it takes between 5 and 9 hours depending on who you speak to.
All 11 of us trudged back to the bus station at 5:00am arriving early to hopefully get a 'better' seat and not be crushed by locals. It was a pretty basic bus, but at least it had leg room and we had all managed to get a seat. There were even some spare! 5:30 came and past. For no apparent reason we left closer to 6:30, and picked up some locals on the way. One of them loaded a near complete kitchen on the bus (gas bottle, cooker, wok, veggie's etc)
The journey was incredibly scenic again and we were held up by three landslides that were already being cleared. At the last one we were told to get out, take our passports and walk to the Laos border. The landslide was at least 100m long and at the very end of it the Laos border post was waiting for us. We started filling out the paperwork wondering when (or if) we would see our bus (or bags) again but it somehow turned up after an or hour or so.
The border crossing took well over two hours as the staff processed the 11 of us who needed visa's, but at least we were in Laos with our bus. The 37km journey to the border taking three hours.
The next 57kms to Muong Khiaw was on an incredibly slow road that didn't stop winding its way through the mountains taking 4 hours and picking up more and more locals who crammed onto a mattress on the front of the bus.
Eleven of us wanted to get as close to Luang Praban as possible and succeeded in talking a boat captain into taking us to Nong Khiaw, a four hour journey
Luckily there was a restaurant at the pier which gave all of a good feed (our second proper meal in two days). The restaurant owner also arranged for a tuk tuk to pick us up at 5am the next morning to take us to Luang Praban. We spent the night in one of the more dodgy guesthouses of our trip (our room had a lovely poster of a topless lady), run by some old bloke who seemed very suprised and pleased to see guests in his hotel - and that we filled every room.