Luang Prabang, Laos
Today we did a whole lot of nothing. We lazed around, read our books a bit by the river, moved from cafe to cafe to buy a drink or snack and waited for time to pass. Danny discovered the local Nam Khong beer (similar to the Australian VB), which sorted him out for the day. We ate an early dinner at a BBQ restaurant, where again we cooked our own meat on a BBQ in the middle of the table. No exotic meats tonight, just beef, pork and liver (I wasn't a fan of the liver). I decided to be brave and try a Kamikaze wine cooler. Last time I'll be doing that.
We grabbed our bags from the hotel and jumped on a tuk-tuk to take us to the bus station. Just as we the tuk-tuk left the hotel I realised I had left my camera at the restaurant. The friendly driver drove straight back to the restaurant for me. The camera wasn't at the table we were sitting at but thankfully one of the waiters had picked it up. Four weeks of photos almost disappeared very quickly.
It was time. We had been dreading this all day: a 14 hour overnight bus ride. And not in a sleeper bus. We had heard many horror stories about the quality of the buses (from no suspension to air conditioning units falling from the roof) and the condition of the roads. When we arrived at the bus station the "VIP" bus didn't look too bad - double-decker, blankets, chairs that reclined slightly (but we were still sitting upright) and we scored the front two seats. We also had a storage compartment in front of us that we could put our feet up on (although feet are considered dirty in Laos and shouldn't be put on anything, so we had to play "ignorant tourist" for the night). No toilets. We stopped at a drop toilet two hours in but after that the only stops were on the side of the road. The morning could not come quick enough.
The journey was painfully slow, mainly because the road was never straight at any point (there was a corner at least every 100 m) and there were some decent-sized potholes. It also didn't help that we were continuously caught behind logging trucks. Deforestation is a huge problem in Laos; China comes in and takes the trees and in return they pave Laos' roads (though obviously not to a high standard).
The lights went out in the bus early, indicating it was time to sleep, but the Laos music was turned up deafeningly loud the entire way. Eight hours into the trip we hadn't slept at all, so Danny tried lying on the floor of the bus to see if that helped. It didn't. After nine hours we hit dirt road but it wasn't too bad - I think it had been leveled to be paved soon. At around 4 or 5 a.m. we finally dozed off, but it was a restless sleep and only lasted a couple of hours.
A great start to Danny's birthday.