Laos has been good for me; it’s been what the rest of trip hasn’t been. It’s been making lots of friends, eating tons of western food, drinking a lot of beer, and enjoying the sunshine. But it really hasn’t been much in terms of cultural connection. Of course I smile and try to interact with the locals, but it hasn’t been much further than that. And right now, I’m okay with that! It’s been a change of pace for me, and with that I’ve had some very pleasant days! (…and some very rough hangovers!)
I took a flight from Yangon, Myanmar to Bangkok, Thailand to catch a train to the border of Laos. And it just so happened that Berdien had a layover there the same night, so we agreed to meet for dinner! Long story short though, through my idiocy our dinner plans fell apart (I somehow neglected to give her the actual address of where I was going to be eating!). I was super bummed that she never showed up and that I wouldn’t be able to see her one last time! I waited as long as I possibly could before giving up and going to the station to catch my train. As I get there though, she comes running towards me !!!! I almost burst into tears!!! I was so so so so happy that she thought to come and catch me before my train left. We had only a few moments together there, but they meant to the world to me! She was such an important part of my time in Myanmar, and such a big reason why I enjoyed my time there so much. I miss travelling with her so much!
The night train to the border was soooo nice. I got second class, and it should have been labelled as first! We left an hour late, but other than that the journey was super smooth. Soooo different from what I had experienced back in 2012! So that was a pleasant surprise. I arrived at the border around 8am, smoothly crossed and then caught a taxi to my hostel in Vientiane. A lot of people told me not to waste my time there and that it’s not even worth going to at all. I’m glad I didn’t listen! Yes, it definitely doesn’t offer too much in terms of sight-seeing, but it was a quiet, lovely little place with a fantastic night market and lots of restaurants! And there I met Lukas and Gary, two friends from Germany! They provided me with good company, lots of laughs, and a solid hangover. Lol.
The one thing that’s popular in the area though is Buddha Park, a small park with a bunch of Buddhist statues mixed with Hindu statues. My hostel was offering a tour for about $12, and I’m SO GLAD I didn’t do that. Instead, I took the local bus and paid only about $3 for the whole thing. And although it was a neat little park, I definitely would not have been impressed if I had paid any more than those 3 dollars!
After my couple days there, I headed to Vang Vieng. I was pretty wary of this place; It’s known for its partying. In fact, the main thing to do there is go tubing down the river and stop at bars along the way. In 2012, the majority of these bars closed due to 21 deaths in one year!!!!!!! So, wasn’t really too keen on that. But, I ended up meeting Arthur, Justine and Kaitlyn and I spent waaaaay more time there than I was planning to and I totally enjoyed it! We did the tubing (which was very tame), enjoyed a few delicious meals, went to an insaaaaane crazy party, rented scooters and explored some lagoons and caves, and hung out by the river reading! It was so, so pleasant. I’m glad I was open to it. It definitely paid off!
Next, I headed to Luang Prabang. Again, a lot of mixed reviews about it! But I definitely fell in love. It’s so dang beautiful there! And super peaceful, especially compared to Vang Vieng. It’s between two rivers, and the ambience of the area is just so calming. I had a pretty lazy couple of days there, which I definitely needed. They consisted of reading, writing, yoga, movie watching, walking around, and some planning! Productive, peaceful, perfect. I also had met up with a couple of girls that I shared a room with in Vang Vieng and with some other people from their hostels we went and visited some waterfalls around the area! After that, we finished the night of at a suuuper bohemian and cozy bar called Utopia.
I wish I had had a bit more time in Luang Prabang, but instead I headed up north to a teeeeeeny tiny town called Nong Khiaw. Although small, it was quite touristy. I was okay with that though! Had nice bars with hammocks to hang out in, and reaaaaally good Indian food restaurants. I only had two nights there, and in hindsight, it was a bit of a waste of money since I didn’t do much there! But, the scenery was gorgeous, I caught two sunsets, I slept in, and I rested! It was the cherry on top to my few days resting. You know, some preparation to get ready for the big change that’s about to happen in my trip!
On the way back from Nong Khiaw I shared a mini van with another group of 4 travellers. They were about my age and from various parts of the world but had been travelling together for a while. When we had arrived back in Luang Prabang our taxi driver was to make two stops: one in town and one at the bus stop (where I was headed!). When he stopped to drop them off in town they were not impressed with how far away from the centre they were and refused to get out. The driver just shut the door and went to drive to the bus station. When they realized that he wasn’t going to take them any closer they agreed to get out. He pulled over, they got out and went around to the back to get there bags and the driver went to open the door and help them. But theeeeeeeeen, they started demanding money back (10000 kip, which is about $1.60 CAD) since they weren’t taken any closer into the centre of town. The driver (obviously) refused, and then the group started to get super angry and yell at him! Next thing I know, things have gotten a little physical and the driver ran around to the front seat, opened the door, and pulled out a huge knife (the size of his forearm!!!!!) and went at them!!!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was sitting in the backseat, peacefully waiting to be dropped off at the bus station. What I mostly couldn’t believe was how stupid these travellers were. It was stupid of them to get so angry, it was stupid of them to get physical, it was stupid of them to demand money back. After a couple minutes (and somehow, no blood shed!) the driver got back in the van and kept driving, while I was still figuring out how safe I was and if I should get out too, or what! He started saying “They no good! THEY NO GOOD!” obviously I said back “NO GOOD! NO GOOD! NO GOOD AT ALL!”. The bus station was only about 3 minutes away, thank GOODNESS, and as soon as we stopped I bolted out of the van! I mean, I was causing no issues to him, I was respectful of him and cooperative, and even thankful for getting me safely to my destination, so there was no reason for him to be violent towards me. And he wasn’t! When he got back in the car he placed the knife back under the seat and everything was fine. But wow, what an unnerving thing to have happen! Definitely makes me feel differently about when to draw the line with prices and negotiations for transportation. Mind you, I would never act as they had.
After that 4 hour bus ride, I waited 2 hours at the bus stop to catch yet another bus. And this one, according to many many blogs and other travellers, was labelled as “The Bus from Hell” and “The Nightmare Bus.” Yes, it did indeed take me a solid 28 hours to get to my destination, but it was much better than some of the transport I’ve experienced before! So I’ve decided, they’re babies! Or maybe they just need to try out a train in Myanmar. Lol.
But that brings me to where I am now: Hanoi! It’s crazy, busy, chaotic, charming, overwhelming, and wonderful. My three days here have been nothing but absolutely fantastic, and I can’t even imagine how much better this is going to get for me. But it is! 9 hours until my Danny arrives. AHHH !!!!