After one night in Phonsavan I was keen to do an overnight bus trip out of there rather than face another night there. Despite this, my sister had been on the phone after visiting Nong Khiaw and she never thought I’d see better scenery than there and Vang Vieng. Even an hour before I had to get to the bus station I was debating whether to use my prebooked ticket or not (again, a hefty cut taken from the Phoukham Guesthouse). I went for my original plan, then it was bolstered by bumping into a group from our Luang Prabang bus that were doing the same.
I met them (Francisco and Mauro from Argentina, Angelika from Germany, Owen from England, and Nick from Boston) again at the bus station, and got to know them pretty well while waiting for the bus. This bus was doing a complete trip from Vientiene to Sam Neua – a beast of a journey of around 20+ hours. Due to this, it didn’t turn up at 7.30 as expected so we waited. And waited. And waited. Put on more warm clothes (well, the few I had not posted home). And waited. It was cold in Phonsavan at night, like Scottish cold. Eventually after a few sandwiches and coffees later, the bus turned up at 11pm, and we burst into lively (nervous) hysterics.
I had already got used to buses being pretty overloaded in Laos, and Asia in general, but this one turned up with the rear six rows full of boxes and luggage, full of people, including the several sitting in the typical kids-style mini plastic seats deployed in the aisle. And at least 5 motorbikes, plus all the other luggage strapped on the roof.
Where were we going to fit in?
Just as we were about to load our luggage, a second bus arrived which was one third empty. There was no choice as we scrambled onto the second bus, milliseconds after confirming it was bound for Sam Neua as well. That was only after I had taken a photograph and watched my open camera drop to the ground from my wrist. I had nothing else in my hands, no excuse. I was gutted. My second camera within two months, and it was only four weeks old. As happens in travelling, you realise there’s nothing you can do about it, so you just have to carry on.
The 9 hour bus journey wasn’t the comfiest in Laos, as the road was quite twisty and I couldn’t really stretch my legs out. I was sitting next to a local who used my shoulder as an occasional headrest. The other five were sprawled out on the raised back seat, however it turned out they weren’t as comfy as they looked either. My stuffed paclite jacket didn’t prove to be an effective bum rest either.
We arrived at 8am in Sam Neua and it was even colder than Phonsavan. We were all pretty knackered but decided to get some food, and go straight to Vieng Xai rather than take a wee nap. It was refreshing to meet this bunch as there was no hassles – straight into a shared room to cut costs, and laughter all around. Despite them travelling together for a few days I wasn’t left out of it at all, so cheers guys if any of you read this.