Published: January 9th 2009January 9th 2009
River crossing in Muang Khua
Here's were you cross to get the bus to Dien Bien Phu.
As I was interested in seeing some stuff in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, I elected to cross the border between Laos and Vietnam the hard way - up north at Tay Trang. It sure as hell would've been smoother to just fly straight from Luang Prabang to Hanoi, but where's the adventure in that? So after spending New Year's in Luang Prabang with some nice room company I sat my B-hind on the bus to Udomxai. A quite long ride on one hell of an ass-breaking bus. Crossing mountains means endless roads winding in every direction imaginable. After having the luxury of riding a minivan from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang it was sad to be back on a local bus again, but that's just how things are. This ride was again jampacked with people and junk, hindering any movement of my long creaky legs.
Arriving in Udomxai I was pretty beat with an aching ass and shredded soul from the karaoke, so I chose not to take the next bus to Muang Khua, which is the last stop in Laos, but to check into some guesthouse and chill for the evening. There was a decent place right next to the
bus staion (!!!), a bit cold but alright for one night. I'm glad I did stop in Udomxai as I needed the rest and wasn't sure of what kind of sub-standard would meet me in Muang Khua. I'd heard some stories... In the evening I met a nice dude from Canada that I hung out with, so it was all good.
The next day I headed off to Muang Khua on an even worse bus ride. Now the road was pretty bad, something that is quite unusual in Laos, at least on the roads I've been travelling on. They may wind up and down mountains forever but are usually quite okay. This one wasn't that good. Again the bus was packed with people and the odd chicken. Of course again the cursed karaoke was playing, this time in some sort of a stage show version with "hilarity" mixed in. Luckily it wasn't that loud and I could actually pull out my Walkman and block out some of the noise. As Muang Khua is a really small place I expected ther bus to stop IN town. Well, guess again. The damn thing stopped 2km before town so most people got
As in suspenseful to cross it...
on a tuk-tuk into town except for me and an English gentleman. Ah, I love hauling them 30kg's! To add to the fun, the bus passed us, on its way in to town, with the driver flashing a big grin. Coming into town I found my way to the Nam Ou Guesthouse and checked into probably the worst room I've ever stayed in. But hey, it was only 25 000kip! The dirty bathroom was downstairs and featured a "hot" shower only in the 3 hour window when there was electricity in the evening. The food in town was pretty crappy with low quality meat (read: bones and lard) All this may sound really bad, but I really didn't give a shit. I was in a highly unusual mode of harmony, so who gives a shit if it's bad?
As my bus to Dien Bien Phu didn't leave until Tuesday and I arrived on a Sunday late afternoon, I spent the Monday checking out the surroundings. It was a nice lazy day. I pampered myself with a "Fried Pork Cohp" (yes, that's how they spelled it) with rice. It was relaitvely expensive and unfortunately totally crap. Wasn't much meat on
The bridge from another point of view.
those bones and no sauce with the superdry rice. Even this couldn't disrupt my weird calm mode.
Next morning I got up at 5:30 to catch the 7AM bus. After a pho breakfast me and some other farang were shipped over the river in a small boat as the bus is on the other side. We got on and sat there for almost an hour before we left at 7:55... My knee was already starting to hurt before we even began the journey, as this bus was PACKED. I've been on packed buses before but this one was crammed, loaded, fucking bursting with people and goods! I sat in the seat behind the driver but there was a big pile of people between us. It looked like a Roman orgy with clothes on! This time the "road" was atrocious and on many occasions it felt like the damned thing would tip over and plunge down into the gorgeous valley right next to us. It felt a bit uncomfortable but I checked the locals' faces and they seemed cool about it so I figured we'd be alright. Luckily we had like a million ton of sacks and crates stored low
Nam Ou Guesthouse, where I enjoyed my last days in Laos.
in the bus (that's right: in the aisle...) and the lighter load ontop so that helped us stay on the road. At some tiny village an old woman was helped onto the bus. She was really fragile and couldn't walk without help. To m y big surprise no one but me was willing to give up their seats for this poor old lady. Without hesitations I jumped into the pile of people infront of me and let her sit in my seat. The reward? Well, she got sick and started puking after five minutes and the plastic barfing bag came a bit too late so there was a quiet fresh orange colored meal dripping down on the floor. I managed to pull away my legs and I was fine. The poor woman got off the bus shortly after that. I cleaned away some puke from the seat and sat ny ass back into it (no it wasn't as bad as it sounds). The bumpy road winded on forever, wading through water and at one point we had to get out not to weigh down the bus while it crossed a stream, but finally we got to the Laos border checkpoint.
Crossing the river
2000 kip and a minute later we were across.
We were held there for an hour as some Vietnamese bitch hadn't declared all her damn goods. Most of the crap on the bus was hers!!!
A short ride later we arrived at the Vietnamese Tay Trang border and here we were held for two hours as they were starting to unload a lot of crap from the bus. Later it turned out the customs guys were buying some of the shit in addition to confiscating some. As we were just sitting around waiting me, a Cambodian woman and an American Celtics fan *shudder* started to play a game of shithead (card game). For some reason this was not cool with the customs people so we had to stop. So we went back to staring at the bus... We were finally allowed to leave and had only 36km left to Dien Bien Phu. However, we made like a gazillion stops before that, mostly to unload the bitch's crap at different locations, so it took quite a while. All in all, the ride took about 10 hours (+ the one hour delay) so don't get fooled by the short distance on the map folks!
If you're wondering: not even
Tay Trang Border
"Goodbye my darling, hello Vietnaaaam"
this long nightmarish ride could unsettle my calm and zen-like charachter. Unfortunately this would quickly change upon arrival at one of the seven gates of Hell: Dien Bien Phu! But that's another story, currently only on the Swedish blog...
There are more photos below