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Published: January 4th 2007
As soon as I got on the bus heading south, I realized just how different this country was from Vietnam. I took one step, and was practically flagged down by a local women (about 50) who was just jazzed about the prospects of sitting next to me for the drive down. I should clarify that neither the local bus driver or the long distance driver tried to charge me a penny more than the locals paid. So, in addition to not paying anything extra for the ticket, the local bus driver flagged the long distance bus down since it was pulling out of the bus station just as we arrived, walked me over to it, and made sure that it was going all the way to my destination. Hey, if local travel was always this easy, it wouldn't be fair to the tour companies! Once on, I took the dear up on her offer and sat in the front row, so I was blessed with a fair bit of leg room for the journey, which did have plenty of local flavor to it. We stopped for 20 minutes at a time for no apparent reason, were 'boarded' by a hoard of
Bus donated by Japan
Note the moped loaded on
women selling meat, rice, and eggs (about 10 of them jumped onto our packed bus for 20 minutes of the ride), had to make emergency swerves to avoid hitting herds of cattle, and also stopped to load a motorbike into the front next to the driver. Just think, I would have missed most of this had I taken the 'VIP' buses that cost 5x more and have 1/10 the culture! I had phoned ahead to reserve my room in Savanneket, and had a lovely guesthouse to go to, as soon as I was able to find it. In due Lao fashion, street signs were all but absent, about one every 5 streets, but never for both streets, meaning that one has to walk about 10 blocks in order to get a cross street bearing. Once this was accomplished, I just counted streets until I found mine. This walk gave me a chance to see the city, just enough to know that there was nothing to see, and that I would not be feeling bad for leaving first thing the next morning. My bus to Pakse was about the same, but only offered 4 hours of the culture instead of the
10 the day before. The highlight was meeting Simon and Lisa. They were Brits living in Austrilia for the past six years, and we ended up traveling together for the next three cities. Upon being delivered to the bus stop outside the city, we were joined by a French couple and discovered that we were 10k out of the city. This was odd, because as soon as the bus dropped us off, it went down the road right the the downtown part of Pakse. So, this country is better, but not perfect. We figured they must have had some kind of deal with the local taxi service. The city is small, total population of 66,000 - no need to have the bus station 10k outside of the city! But, being dropped off while it is still light out does have its advantages, for we were able to start walking toward the city, all the while being accosted by a tuktuk driver who wanted us to pay something like $1 each. But he only had 3 passengers, so we kept on walking until he actually gave us a price that was better than the local price (collective bargaining kicks butt!). We
Grill of a bus
Chi and Nike? Guess it just proves that many are just clueless.
ended up going straight to my guesthouse, which was full. I was proud of the fact that I did not loose my cool, but strongly and with a smile let them know that they were just going to have to figure something out. I had spent money on the phone call to make a reservation, and was not leaving. What do ya know, they put an additional mattress on the floor of the dorm room, cut the price by 50%, and I had my lodging (with hot water) for $1. Smiles all around. Even though this city had nothing much to do either, it was charming, and I happily spent two nights relaxing and enjoying some great Indian food. Only minus was the the internet was down the whole time (and would be until I got to Cambodia) due to the Earthquake in Tapei. So, my stay was just that much cheaper!
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