The whole day took about 15 hours door to door. Alan and I decided to make the most of our Visa run and see some of Laos. We started out with a quick 24 hour tour in Vientiane and got our tourist visas for Thailand. Then we set off on a crazy bus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang to see the historic town I had heard so much about.
We might not have chosen the best mode of transportation with such a short amount of time, but it’s all about the journey right….and that bus ride to Luang Prabang was definitely a journey.
I make it sound worse than it really was. I had read horror stories of buses getting into wrecks and people getting robbed. Our bus ride was not that crazy.
We actually got the scariest part of the ride out of the way right out of the gate. I had booked our bus tickets through a local travel agent down the street from our guesthouse. Little did I know the booking agent was also the driver for the morning, and he was running a little bit late.
There were already about 5 other passengers in the songtaew (shared ride vehicle) when it came speeding up to our guesthouse. We quickly loaded up and started making our way to the first stop.
Our rickety songtaew was weaving in and out like we were on a mission!
We made it to the first bus station without any casualties, and the first passenger got off. Next was the northern bus station (our bus station), which was about half an hour from the central bus station.
We were off. The driver again started weaving in and out of the terrible Vientiane morning traffic. He came within inches of a tuk tuk only to slam on the breaks at the very last minute. This sent me flying off my seat towards the cab of the songtaew. Thankfully Alan was there to stop me from flying through it.
Then the driver nearly took out a couple of motorbikes on our way out of town.
Other than the bumpy road, the rest of our ride went smoothly once we got away from the city center.
The bus itself was not too bad. The seats were bigger than European buses and they were pretty comfy. Unfortunately for us, we managed to find a broken seat. Once the recline button was pressed the back of the seat would fall into the lap of the passenger behind it. We didn’t realize this problem until the bus had almost filled up.
I jumped over to the seat across the aisle, so Alan could sit in my non broken seat. We wouldn’t be sitting together but at least we would be comfortable…..so I thought. Seems like I was the lucky one to find the other broken seat on the bus, which was right in front of me except the person sitting in that seat didn’t care about the passenger behind them. Needless to say I rode with the person in front of me basically in my lap for a couple hours.
Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and had to switch with Alan. I don’t know how he managed to make it the rest of the bus ride like that, but he did.
Our first stops a few women got on the bus to sell fresh baked baguettes and fruit. The bread in Laos is fantastic. I’m not usually one to buy a loaf to eat as a snack, but the baguettes are too good to pass up, and they’re less than a dollar.
The scenery throughout the whole drive is incredible. I knew we would be traveling through the mountains but wasn’t expecting it the entire drive. This made me happy, but the winding road didn’t settle well with other passengers hence the motion sickness tablets.
Less than 2 hours into the drive I hear a woman getting sick at her seat. Fortunately she used her sick bag, but the sound was enough to make me queazy.
We made a couple of short stops at roadside stands that sold a dozen different kinds of dried fish before taking our lunch break at a soup and baguette shop. They didn’t tell me this when I booked the tickets, and thankfully another passenger was nice enough to explain to me that you use the stub on your bus ticket for a free lunch.
It’s basically a free noodle soup or discounted baguette sandwiches, but hey, it’s better than dried fish.
The rest of the drive was quite smooth. We kept winding through the mountains making various stops until we finally drove into Luang Prabang. I was originally told that the drive would take 10 hours. It actually took 13. I learned long ago to have a lacks schedule when you book a bus in SE Asia.
If you have the time to take the bus, I say do. The drive is really beautiful. Maybe cut the trip in half and stop off at a town along the way. The 13 hours wasn’t terrible, but it would have been better broken up.
Have you taken a long bus ride abroad? What was your experience like?