A Disappointing and Frustrating Day
Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
297Trip End Dec 15, 2011
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It all started with the hotel. Nice room, nice American lady, but unfriendly, rude staff and owners who never smile, ever, despite me cracking a wide grin at them every time in an effort to provoke some sort of response that didn't appear like we were a massive imposition on their day.
We went out that morning at 9am, having been told that buses to Vieng Xai ran every hour
We thanked him, thinking our day was looking up and went to the station, arriving at 10am. We got out and I handed the driver 5000. He looked at us flabbergasted and said 25,000. Angela snapped, she started yelling and swearing in Italian (which sounds really nice, it's funny!) and pacing around kicking at things, all in front of a bunch of other tuktuk drivers and all the passengers at the bus station. This was causing a real scene and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up despite being angry myself. Another driver came over and also started saying it was 25,000. This was ridiculous when we had been told otherwise, and anyway, the bus to Vieng Xai 20km away was only going to cost 10 or 15000, so it made no sense, we just saw them as taking us for a ride (no pun intended!)
Me and Angela sat in front of the station with everyone looking at us. No one was behind the booking counter and so all we could do was sit and wait, humiliated and the drivers clearly all hating us. Randomly, a man arrived wearing camo gear, with a baby strapped to his back and a large machine gun also slung over his back. Random.
We sat there for 2 hours! 2 bloody hours waiting for the 'hourly' bus to take us away from our humiliation and evil looks. At last at 12.15 we left the bus station and prayed we'd arrive in time for the 1pm tour, knowing that it was a 50min journey away
We arrived at 1 and speed walked the final 1km to the caves office to try and get on the 1pm tour. We got there at 1.10. It was there that the man behind the counter told us first that we were late, but i said we'd been sitting at the bus station in sam neua for 2 hours so had only just arrived, and then that the last bus back was at 2.30 and we should be at the bus stop at 2 to be ready. Plus if we wanted a tour we would only fit in 1 cave, 2 at best and it would cost 60000 regardless of how many caves we saw. We thought we could see some alone then, but he said we can't go to the caves alone, it has to be part of the tour, for which there was only one price - 60,000 each. After all this discussion of exploring the possibilities and disputing the bus return time having been told 4pm by the other tourist office, it was already 1.30 so we only had half an hour left before having to go back to the bus stop. This was where I lost the plot, walking out of the caves office swearing and kicking the wall before plonking myself down on the steps and getting out my biro and applying the previous graffiti to my lonely planet, leaving Angela to explain to the guy at the counter what a crap day we'd already had and that the whole point of coming all this way was to see these damn caves. I heard him apologise over and over but I just remained on the step cursing "this whole journey has been a complete fucking waste of time, energy and money."
She came out of the office and we spent the half hour we had left walking around the small village set in amongst the towering karsks
On arriving at the sam Neua station we knew that asking any of the drivers for a lift back would be bad, so we elected to walk, it was 4.5km away, but we'd rather walk than face the angry drivers who were still there from an hour previously. I did ask the Sawngthaew driver if he was going that way but he said no. We'd had no lunch either, and it was raining so this was going to be fun.
We walked down the slope and saw a shop where the only thing recognisable and remotely sustaining was a packet of biscuits which we bought and then started to walk on. The Sawngthaew driver pulled up and we ran up and got in. He dropped us nearer town and wanted another 10000 off us each (we'd just paid 15,000 to go 20km!) I couldn't be bothered arguing with anyone else today and handed it to him.
We were just in time to return to the tourist office to tell the guy we met this morning that the driver he got us was a cheat, and he shouldn't use him again.
When we arrived the once happy, friendly guy was not happy or friendly any longer. I told him that we had a problem this morning, and he said he knew. I explained what happened and he said that he had told us 25 and not 5, but he'd been saying the 20 bit quickly so we must have misheard him.
We returned to the hotel where I indulged in egg, chips and coke and lying in the nice room doing nothing at all.
Best: eating chips
Worst: most of the day actually, but not getting the opportunity to see the caves after all the effort of getting here
Beautiful: Vieng Xai village