Road to Hanoi

November 16th 2005
Published: November 27th 2005
Edit Blog Post

Circus BusCircus BusCircus Bus

The driver and cashier put the 30 or so bags from the elderly Lao ladies on the top of the bus.
We leave Phonsavan early in the morning to get a jump on heading to the Vietnam border (we have to first spend a night in Sam Neua). At the bus station, which again is just a dirt parking lot, a group of nice buses are parked. We are told our bus to Sam Neua will come shortly. Soon a delapitated vehicle that looks like it was once a bus comes up the road. That of course is for us. We board the moving death-trap and set out on our eight hour journey into the mountains. In the bus is an older couple (maybe in their 50's) from Europe and a whole lotta Laoations. Ahhh...traveling. The bus is almost full as we head out. We travel all of 200 meters before the bus stops to pick up a group of elderly Lao ladies on the side of the road. Between them they have 30 bags of luggage. It takes 20 minutes to put their luggage on the roof and squeeze the six ladies into the last row of the bus (which seats 4).

Once again the traveling provides amazing views of Laos countryside. After stopping for lunch in a small town
Riding with gunsRiding with gunsRiding with guns

These two Lao gentleman ride along the highway with their long guns.
which seemed dedicated to producing chillys (that is how they spell Chilli), we arrived at Sam Neua as the sun was setting and quickly found a place to lay our weary bones. We grabed a quick meanl of spicy tofu in the only restaurant we could find and then went straight to bed as the bus the next day to the Vietnam border was scheduled for 6am.

I awoke early to do yoga and check on the bus. I got to the bus station (a parking lot) and inquired about the bus. The Lao man pointed over my head at our bus...which, when I turn around, is actually a large pick-up truck with benches in the back and a cover (locally known as a Swangthaew). I timidly ask how long the journey would be and he responded: "3 hours". Ugh.

We cautiously climbed aboard the truck along with a Dutch couple and a few Laos and Vietnamese nationals. I enjoyed the ride as I hung out the back of the truck and let the cool morning wind stroke my face. Three hours later (as promised...yes!) we reached the border where the officials tore our packs apart and then
Striking it richStriking it richStriking it rich

I snap this photo as we pass through a small toll. The toll keeper counts the piles of Kip he has collected.
let us leave. The border we crossed was not often used by foreigners as it was just officially opened late last year. So both the Laos and Vietnamese officals were suprised to see us.

After walking 400 meters to the Vietnam side, we were greeted by nice officals who took about an hour to interview us and check our paperwork. After letting us through, we found ouselves in small town with transportation to Hanoi. Opps. There was a public bus but it was not slatted to leave until the next day and no one could tell us when. We ended up having to pay a guy $120 USD to drive the four of us to Hanoi (a 7 hour trip) in a very small minivan. Upon arriving in Hanoi, there was a dispute about how much we owed him. We handled it by jumping into cabs and speeding off as his wife yelled at us and tried to grab our bags. A true Lost in Translation moment...and I forgot to take photos! Ugh. But we were in Hanoi and happy to stop traveling for a bit. Our two cabs raced through town and dropped us off in the Old
Field of DreamsField of DreamsField of Dreams

Lao workers tend to their crops as we speed by at 30 kph.
Quarter as the clock struck 9:30 pm.

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Pee BreakPee Break
Pee Break

Fellow riders return from the field after relieving themselves during our roadside stop. Many of the Lao women actually pee standing almost straight up. Hmmmmm.
Long HaulLong Haul
Long Haul

Our bus rushes by this girl as she carries a heavy pack up the long, windy hill.
Waiting for MomWaiting for Mom
Waiting for Mom

As we drop off a Lao woman at her hill village, the kids gather around the bus.
Chilly ReceptionChilly Reception
Chilly Reception

At the small town we stopped at for lunch, they had laid their chilly (that is how they spell it) out to be dried in the sun.
So many uses for DTSo many uses for DT
So many uses for DT

I am often ridiculed for carrying a roll of duct tape around with me (it hangs off my small knapsack for everyone to see). But here, it came in handy as I was able to afix a girl's bag of cookies to the window to help block out the blazing sun.
More village peopleMore village people
More village people

We stop at a crossroad and let a few passengers off (their luggage has to be removed from the rood). I wander around the village and see this group of kids. I have no idea what the black stuff on the one child's face is.
Children's GamesChildren's Games
Children's Games

This group of Lao kids play a game that involves rolling a small rock and trying to hit anothers'. It looked a bit like marbles.
Is it school or dinner?Is it school or dinner?
Is it school or dinner?

During our quick dinner in Sam Neua, the elderly European couple from the bus come in as well. Like ourselves, they order by using a pointer and the menu which hangs on the wall.

A group of travelers (Tamar and myself along with a Dutch couple) join the Laoations and Vietnamese on the three hour trip to the Vietnam border in a Swangthaew...which is a pick up truck with benches in the back and a cover. Not very comfortable, especially in the winding, mountain roads of Northern Laos.
View from the rearView from the rear
View from the rear

Looking out the back of the pickup to the valley below as we climb one of the many mountains towards the border.

Tot: 0.078s; Tpl: 0.011s; cc: 9; qc: 26; dbt: 0.0564s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.1mb