From Hanoi to Luang Prabang on a Bus: A 30 Hour DiaryThursday, May 19, 2011
You have 2 options to get from Hanoi, Vietnam to Luang Prabang, Laos:
1. Take a 45-minute flight that will cost 150-200 USDConsidering that I already spent 34% of my Vietnam travel fund on entertainment, it's no surprise that I chose option#2 to cross the border.
2. Take a 30-hour bus ride that will cost 50 USD
So, do you want to know what happens inside a bus for 30 hours straight?
4:00 pm - Took shower at the hostel. This will be my last one for the next 30 hours!
5:00 pm - Motorbike pick-up from hostel to a random travel agency.
5:30 pm - Minivan pick-up from random travel agency to a roadside in the middle of nowhere. Things are starting to not look good.
6:00 pm - Pick-up by a random guy (who may or may not work for the agency). Walked 300 meters to the bus stop.
|The bus we called home for 30 hours|
6:30 pm - Surprise! There was NO toilet inside the bus that we will be stuck in for 30 freakin' hours. Ran to the nearest toilet, not sure if this was going to be my first and last on this trip.
7:00 pm - And we're off! It's the start of an epic journey.
8:00 pm - The driver turned off the lights just as Sarah was explaining the Indian road hierarchy system (where humans are the bottom and cows reign supreme) in the book I was currently fueling my wanderlust with: Holy Cow, An Indian Adventure.
10:00 pm - Toilet break, at last! However since most passengers were male, the driver didn't think it would be necessary to stop at a place where there were actually toilets. I had to do it in the bushes, behind a nearby building. Ran back as fast as I could for fear that the bus would leave without me.
|Our sleeping quarters: semi-reclining seats which were surprisingly cozy.|
12:15 am - A skinny Vietnamese guy, who we shall henceforth call Chou, gets on our bus. He chooses to sit across the aisle from me, which was right beside Dan, another backpacker from Englad.
12:30 am - I wake up, startled by a loud noise. It was Chou, he was on his mobile and he was talking to someone and laughing loudly. Everyone in the bus was asleep at this point (so was I up until then). Who he's calling in the middle of the night, we would never know.
1:00 am - After 30 minutes, Chou finally puts the phone now. Dan, JV, Scott, Haj and I (the only foreigners on the bus) heave an audible sigh of relief.
1:05 am - Our sighs are cut short by the sound of Vietnamese pop playing...from Chou's mobile phone. Of course, he was considerate enough to play it on full volume so that all the passengers would hear.
1:30 am - Chou feels hot and icky so he does the next logical thing - He makes himself comfortable by taking off his shirt. Poor Dan had to sleep beside him the whole night.
2:00 am - Now there's only one thing that can make his night perfect before going to sleep - a cigarette. Will you let a little thing like being in an airconditioned bus with 20 other passengers stop you from doing this? Not if you're Chou! So, he lights up his middleton black and mild cigars and puffs away contentedly. For the 5 of us, dreamland seems so far away.
2:30 am - Everything is quiet now. Even Chou sleeps.
4:00 am - Dan gets spooned by his seatmate. He gently pushes Chou away from him.
5:00 am - Dan gets spooned again. This time, he forcefully shoves him back. Chou doesn't wake up and continues to sleep.
Sometime between 6:00 and 7:00 am - Somehow, in some way, our prayers were answered. Our buddy, Chou, gets off the bus quietly and without any fuss. Good riddance, my friend.
7:30 am - Arrive at Vietnam border. Immigration office isn't open until 8:00 am.
8:30 am - Visa-on-arrival officer arrives looking like he had a rough night.
9:00 am - Everyone's passports are stamped to officially declare that we have left Vietnam.
It's times like these that I'm thankful that I'm Asian!
10:00 am - The locals finally warm up to the foreigners on board.
|They even wanted me to try their tobacco pipe! No, I didn't try it|
|Someone tried to steal a kiss!|
11:00 am - And we're now driving inside Laos!
1:00 pm - Lunch at a roadside stall where I had the worst chicken curry ever. Blech!
3:15 to 4:47 pm - Jason Statham moves goods (humans or otherwise) without asking any questions. Business is good until he breaks the rules becase of a woman. Blood, gore and car crashes follow soon after, which made all the locals happy.
9:00 pm - Touchdown Luang Prabang.
10:00 pm - First order of business after checking in at Spicy Laos hostel? A hot shower. Sometimes I think long bus rides were meant for travellers to appreciate the miracle of a hot shower.
You can book your bus tickets to Luang Prabang from many travel agencies around Hanoi's backpacker district along Ma May Street. Just make sure to scout around first to find the cheapest one.My Vietnam to Laos journey was long, action-filled, hilarious and only mildly uncomfortable. Some people I've met on the road have actually warned me that taking the bus into Laos from Vietnam was a death wish come true. I found this to be untrue but my Sole Sister Lois will tell you a different story. Watch out for that!
Main photo credit: by WarzauWynn
Still wishing that Chou was just a figment of her imagination,
Sole Sister Chichi
*Main Photo Credit: warzauwynn