Laos & Thailand. Day 4

Start of trip || < || >

For details of the places I visited in Vientiane and Bangkok, with GPS Coordinates, see my books Vientiane: 20 Must See Attractions and Bangkok: 20 Must See Attractions.

The sun is one hour away from its highest point in the sky when i finally decide to open my eyes. For a backpacker place, this is a nice room, and even has air conditioning. Standards in Asia are going up slowly, but so to the prices. The dorm next door is empty, and i scan inside into the larger units.Yeah, that must be real fun.

I make my way downstairs and try to get my included breakfast. No they say, breakfast is only on the next morning of your stay. Nice, so  i order  a plate of spaghetti and mince. Very tasty.


Looking outside,  it seems that many of the backpackers are napping as their shoes are at the door and there’s almost no one downstairs.

Motorbike hire in town is not an issue, and if you want to ride around Laos there are a large number of models to choose from. However, prices are not cheap and in many case around double or more as you would find in Cambodia. $8 a day for a scooter in a town where a bicycle is almost overkill, is just too much for me, so i decide to walk. The roads are in many case wide with French styled buildings, mixed in with a few Laotian styled ones.



Here and there i do find tuk  tuks standing on the street corners, but they do not haggle you as in Cambodia. What is also different is that many of them have sign boards with tour packages to different attractions around town. Mostly according to me overpriced as many are only a few minutes walk away.


The roadside stalls are far nicer than many i have seen in Cambodia, cleaner as well, and the fish is kept fresh until needed to be cooked.

The yellow blur is a piece of cloth attached to a wire that is spun around by the standing van motor, this is to keep flies off the meat, cool.


Fresh fish.

I walk a bit around town and spot the local museum. The museum has a stunning wood carving right by the entrance that feature a number of figures. Inside the museum is artifacts from the Vietnam war, as well as the French-Laos war. There is a jar from that Jar plains, as well as mock up models of the fields. The museum also have some replicas of original Laos villages houses and clothes, as well as ancient bones found in Laos near the Mekong River.


A jar from the jar fields.


Copy of a picture of the jars. No one really knows what the jars were for. Some suggest that they were used for funeral purposes.


Traditional Laos clothing and items as well as a small village hut at the back.


Ancient remains found in Laos.


Buddhist manuals written on palm leaves.


Picture of a cluster mine that was dropped over Laos during the Vietnam War.


More unexploded ordinances found in the fields after the Vietnam war.

After the museum i walk a bit more around town, find a bicycle shop selling very nice bicycles, a small mall, and the morning market. I spot this restaurant that will have Volkswagen fans standing in line to eat here.

Getting just slightly hungry, i find a coffee shop with very nice sandwiches.


As i walk around, i see a number of adds for places to stay in. Most are at least $200 a month. Although they are very upmarket units, it is more than 3 times what i am paying in Cambodia. I realize that Vientiane may at one stage have been cheaper than Cambodia, but just like  Vietnam, the prices has sky rocketed. Looking around at the fancy restaurants and hotels, i could have been in NY, as many of the prices are almost on par with NY with what i payed for meals in smaller restaurants threre.

I decide to head back to the hostel and plan my route for the next morning. On my way back, i pass a fish shop roasting fish on a grill. All heavily salted.


Back at the hostel, i find out they have basically two options for the menu, spaghetti and mince, or hamburger. I go with spaghetti. Tomorrow, i will do some sight seeing and check out a few temples, as well as the vertical runway.

Laos & Thailand. Day 3

Start of trip || < || >

For details of the places I visited in Vientiane and Bangkok, with GPS Coordinates, see my books Vientiane: 20 Must See Attractions and Bangkok: 20 Must See Attractions.

Outside, tree branches strain against the onslaught of the wind. Inside the hotel, i am sound asleep. Dark dreams as stormy as the weather outside, fill my thoughts, but i sleep on while time is running out.

A clatter in my room rip me from my dreams. The storm outside had died down. Sleepily i look at the floor where my external battery pack had landed. I have two of these monster Anker batteries, packing 15000 mAh of power with the weight of a brick. In my dreams i have kicked the battery off the bed where it was charging my iPad mini. Luckily the cable pulled out and the iPad did not follow the battery pack to the floor.

I press the menu button on the iPad and gulp. It is 6.05 am, shit. I fall out of bed and grab a fresh pair of clothes i have folded on the edge of the bed the night before. Having already packed the night before, I am out of the room and running the three flights of stairs down in 4 minutes flat. The reception guy is still fast asleep as i burst out of the hotel.

As i run into the main road, i notice the name of a hotel across the road from the one i stayed in. The hotel is named the same as the wi-fi connection I was given to use in the hotel i stayed in, they are pirating the hotel’s internet connection. Now i know why only the corner units have proper internet connection as they face the other hotel. Internet piracy is actually a big thing in Asia, you can read all about how i got hacked here.

The main road has four lanes, two going each way, split by an island. I run up the road in hope of finding a tuk tuk. To my surprise, they do not wait on street corners and outside hotels as in Cambodia. Although there is traffic in the road, it is mostly people going to work. The few tuk tuks that do pass me, already have customers. With two backpacks, i run the just over 2km in about 20 minutes, all uphill. By the time i arrive at the bus station, my lungs are burning. Damn i am out of shape.

A tour bus is standing in the road, ready to leave. I go to the first small ticket office and show my ticket to the guy. He is the controller for the people getting on the bus. I notice that they give him a pink picket, and he then exchanges that for a yellow bus receipt. He shakes his head and says that my ticket is not valid. I ask him where i can get a ticket for the bus to Vientiane, and he says i have to buy a new ticket at another booth about 30 meters deeper into the compound. As i start to walk over, the guy that was loading the bus asks if i need help, and I show him my ticket. He informs me that all i have to do is exchange the ticket at the second office, i do not need to buy a need ticket, i must just ask for an exchange. He also adds that i need to hurry, as the bus is leaving in a few minutes, well before the 7 am departure time as scheduled.

Thanking the guy, i sprint over to the second office. There, i hand my ticket over, and ask for an exchange ticket. The guy at the counter writes out a ticket for 100 000 kip, with no destination. Without missing a beat, he flicks the ticket to me, then picks up the book he was reading. I head back to the controller office, and the guy reluctantly takes the ticket, but slips it under his clipboard. He then tells me it is okay, i can get on the bus. The baggage handler then informs me to hurry. I refuse. I want a receipt for my bus ticket as i now have no proof I paid. The controller guy reassures me it is all okay, i can get on the bus, again I refuse, I want a receipt. At this point, a guy that i presume must be a manager or something, shows up and wants to know what is going on. I inform him that i want a receipt for my bus ticket. He asks the controller guy something in Laos, and then turns to me and says the controller guy says i have no ticket.

Catching them all off guard, i lean into the small office and over the counter and rip the clipboard up and grab my pink ticket. I hold it up for all to see and exclaim that this is my ticket that the controller took. For a few seconds, deadly silence descends on us. Just go, the controller guy snarls through gritted teeth. The baggage guy whispers next to me, you better get on the bus now. Nodding, i get on the bus, and head to the back.

My pink ticket that I still have.

I find the couple that i had traveled with before, near the back of the bus. They look exhausted and not too happy. I sit down near them, and ask them if they had exchanged their bus ticket for new ones. The guy hesitate a little, then say yes. I say they wanted to charge me for a new ticket, but got them to give me a free exchange, and then ask him if he had to pay. He says unconvincingly no, he did not need to pay. I leave it at that, and never did find out if he had run through the same troubles as me. I did however find out that the hotel he stayed in had called him a tuk tuk to take him to the bus station.

Strangely, the back seat is open, so i move over and make myself at home. Soon after, the bus heads off.

View inside the bus from my cosy spot at the back of the bus.

About 15 minutes or so after departure, a conductor goes though the bus and ask for bus tickets. I am so glad i argued for getting a receipt, as else i would have been made to pay for a ticket, as well as probably a large bribe for them not to call the police and say i am a stowaway. Corruption. The conductor is a bit taken back by my pink slip, and shrugs his shoulders and move on. I glance over as the couple show their yellow tickets, and note that it is not the same as what the controller guy handed out to the other passengers, so i wonder where he got the tickets. Tip, always hold onto your ticket or a copy of a receipt. The only time you may give it, is to the conductor or the bus driver, however I would suggest you argue and try to hold onto your ticket, you should get a conductor slip and a customer slip with each ticket. It actually says on the ticket, keep your copy (just under the 100 000 kip line). In Asia, crime is harshly punished and as a foreigner, they know you have money and will threaten you with jail and even throw you in jail for a long time, for small things. I saw some being arrested later in my trip, but that is for later.

The countryside wiz past as mile after mile go by. Unfortunately the bus’s window is not that clean, and the driver did not want to stop and clean it for me. 🙁



At points, we pick up passengers along the way, or drop people off. Sometimes we take packages and goods destined for a a town, and it gets packed where ever there is space, even in the isle. However, it is better than the buses where plastic seats are placed in the isle for people to sit on.

The bus remains partially full, so i am able to retain my back seat and snooze as much as i can get.

Almost each time we stop to drop someone off, or pick someone up, it is at a small market and people selling all kinds of stuff swarm the bus. Some have boiled eggs on sticks while others have what looks like cooked and spread open rats on sticks. I was going to get a stick with boiled eggs, when i noticed one egg’s shell was broken and i could see inside. The eggs was green and fungus wires were already growing inside. Somehow, my dry oats is more appealing, and i go for a bowl of that.

Bus after bus and truck pass us as we eat up the road. Most buses, are loaded to the brim, with whatever people need to transport.


Eventually we pull into a small compound, where there is a small market and restrooms. In Cambodia, the restrooms are free to use, but not here. Every place we stopped at, you had to pay for the privilege of using the restroom. Not that the restrooms are much different that those of Cambodia. It is standard Asia restrooms, with at many places the urinals for the guys are against a wall that all have to walk past to get to the actual toilets, and the toilets are squatting toilets with buckets to wash you sexy ass. Sometimes, the toilet is just scrubs alongside the road.


 This is actually one of the better toilets i have seen around. Clean at least. Toilet paper is not used at all by locals.


My bus is the back one, and in better shape than the one in front. The place have the same what looks like rats on sticks, as well as eggs well past their sell by date. I decide to go for the safest thing i could get, and the moment the couple saw what i got, they had to get some as well. 🙂

Spicy chips and a bonus packet of caramel popcorn, lunch.

While i am eating a fly licks its legs as it is waiting for a piece of my lunch. I try and shoe it away, but it refuses, it just sits there and salivate over my lunch. I manage to get the ipad right up to him and take a picture. Then, i bring my finger right to him, and flick him off the seat. The fly flies though the air and bounces off a guy’s head a seat forward and across the isle. He snaps his head around and i duck behind the seat in front of me as i try to contain my laughter. Man, even if i tried a 100 times, i do not think i would be able to get that angle again.


After about 30 minutes or so, we are on the road again. Boringly, the miles go by. By 5 pm, just as the sun is setting, we pull into a large bus terminal with a market, in the middle of nowhere. The market have all kinds of things for sale, and the couple, having no warm clothes with them, contemplate on getting a jacket. Eventually they decide it is too expensive. Laos is considerably colder than Siem Reap, and i am glad that i packet a fleece jacket that has its own hood. Tip, aircons on buses in Asia have only two settings; not working or full blast. Always take at least a fleece jacket with, you can even use it as a pillow. In the market, i spot some fresh bread rolls for 10 000 kip (just over a dollar), and got me some.





 3 bread rolls gone, 3 to go.

The miles again drag by as the sun makes room for the moon.

At some point early in the morning, i think it was like 1 am, my bladder awakens me with an urgent message, find a toilet. Unfortunately the toilet on board is not functional, and the toilet is in fact used as a storage area (checked it out earlier). As the miles go by, my situation changes from desperate, to dire. I move into the stage where one thinks of all kinds of schemes. Having been on the road before, i have done a few things. I have a stainless steel flask, and a 1.5l water bottle about half full. I empty as much water as i can into the flask, and then down the rest of the water in the bottle, being about 1/2 a liter. My plan is to relieve myself into the bottle, that i have done with fruit juice bottles before, however, to my dismay, the opening of the water bottle is way too small. I am not bragging, just stating facts. With the added water that i drank, things move from dire to where i am contemplate throwing the water out of the flask and urinating in the flask. Hey, it is stainless, i can wash it out with bleach. Just as i start to pour the water back, the bus stops to drop someone off. Desperately is shuffle to the front of the bus, trying not to pee in my pants.

With sign language that i hope i never have to repeat, i demonstrate that i need a toilet and will only be 2 minutes. Not giving the driver any time to argue, i hop off the buss. I decide to go and stand in front of the bus, near a building. My reasoning is, that should he pull away, i will easier stop him than being behind the bus. The building turns out to be a roadside shop, almost like the one i encountered on my return trip from Sihanoukville where the owner opened the shop while i was busy.  Throwing caution to the wind, i let it go while illuminated by the bus’s lights and oncoming cars. It must have been a show.  Halfway though, the driver calls for me to get in as he wants to go, but i am in full flow and nothing is going to stop the force now. Finally, after flooding the local area, i am able to return to the bus and a very agitated driver. I have no idea how they manged to be named the most peaceful country in the world, when they do not negotiate and are so inflexible. Maybe they just do not tolerate violence, no negotiations, 🙂

It is just before 4 am when we eventually arrive in Vientiane, at some bus station. Here, the tuk tuks are powered by two stroke engines. More noise and smoke. The couple had managed to get in touch with their hotel to change their booking date, so they want to go to their hotel. I check my iPhone (ForEvermap application that has offline maps with hotels and so on), and see there are two backpacker hostels listed in town. One for $3 a night, and one for $5 a night that includes breakfast of eggs, bread and coffee. The pictures for the second backpacker lodge looks better, so i decide on that. We take a tuk tuk together. The couple’s hotel is not far from the backpacker place, so i walk the last two blocks, using my iphone’s GPS to get me there.

At the place, i find a backpacker working on his laptop, and a guy at reception, just about to close up shop. I ask him if he has a room and he says yes. However, i will have to be out by 10 am or pay for another day. I am like, it is 4am in the morning, why should i pay for a full day when the day is already over. That is the rules he goes. So i go, okay, what time do you open in the morning for checking in for a new day? 6 am he says. So i go, okay, so if i come back at 6 am, i can stay the night and check out at 10 am the next day. Yes he goes. Then i ask him, can i wait in the reception area? Sure he goes. So i end up making myself comfortable on a couch in the reception area, and fall asleep.

At 6 am, he comes to wake me, and informs me that i can now check in for the new day. Rules are rules, no negotiations in Laos. Tiredly i follow him to my bunk bed, lock my stuff away, take a quick shower, then fall asleep.

Reception area of backpacker hostel in Vientiane, Laos.


Other bunk beds in the hostel room, taken from my top bunk. 6 beds in total in the room. One shared shower and toilet outside.

Laos & Thailand. Day 2

Start of trip || < || >

For details of the places I visited in Vientiane and Bangkok, with GPS Coordinates, see my books Vientiane: 20 Must See Attractions and Bangkok: 20 Must See Attractions.

Like normal, there has to bee some wedding or party going on at the club close to my home. The music is so loud, that my windows vibrate and i can feel the thumping of the drums through my mattress. I have no idea how the people manage it at the dance club itself. But it seems an ego thing. The louder your music can be from the band you hire, the more money you have. And you just have to let everyone in two provinces know you are having a party and they are not invited. Thus i managed to get no sleep at all.

Just after 4 am, I down two cups of coffee, take a cold shower (i have no hot water in any case), then pack my stuff and make my way to the pickup point. The streets are deserted, save for a few dogs growling at me as i pass them. One or two chance an attack, but quickly retreat when i blind them with the headlamp i am wearing. The local Pagoda (monastery) is already starting up at 5 am when i pass it, and music is coming from inside as they start to chant. The chanting fills the road, and seems to bring locals alive. All over, small Khmer roadside shops start to open up for the long day ahead. Many are open from 5am to 12pm, every day. A few, closer to town, are open 24 hours.

20 or so minutes walking later, I arrive at the pickup point, that is by the travel agent. I sit down on a bench at the shop next door, and it takes about 30 seconds for 1000 mosquitoes to locate me, and the game is on. Silently i curse myself for forgetting to bring anti-mozzy spray.

I decide to walk across the road and buy a bunch of bananas. The owner wants to charge me $1 for the bunch and i laughingly wave her off, knowing that as soon as the sun comes up and the street gets busy, the price will drop to 50c.

A local tuk tuk stops and asks if i want a ride to the bus station. I decline, be he insists he will take me. By now, my pick up is 10 minutes late. I take my phone out, and silently curse myself again. I have no time on my phone. What happened, is i had a monthly internet package on my phone for $2.5 a month. However, I moved it to my iPad that also has a sim slot. If you do not pay for a month, the subscription does not renew, until you recharge your phone credit, very handy. However, if you let the month go by, and do not recharge your credit and renew for the next month, they do not allow you to cancel the subscription unless you renew for another month. When i did recharge the credit to call, the internet subscription automatically renewed and took all the money. I immediately cancelled the monthly internet plan, and got a text message a few seconds later that the plan was cancelled, but i am not getting my money back. So i lost the credit and the internet data i paid for, way to make money for them.

The tuk tuk driver offers to phone, and gets through. Jup, they forgot and are on their way to pick me up. A few minutes later, a minivan arrives. Nice and new minivan at least.  The van is half full as we zoom off to another pick up point. This turns out to be a guesthouse, where a number of tourists await their buses. They have breakfast and snacks at the place, so all good. I meet a few other people and make some new friends.


After waiting about half an hour, our minivan finally arrives. Our bags are piled under the seats. (Large bags and suitcases would not fit). The driver looks over the people in our group and decides that I must be the fittest of the people not wearing a dress, and asks me to take the back seat. Nice, all cosy in the back of the bus. The problem however is, that the fold down seats do not work, and I have to climb though the back door and over the back seat to get to my place. Nice, like going camping back home. However, we have to wait for who knows what, and by the time we finally leave, it is 7:30. I try to fall asleep, but the air conditioner does not work properly, so i am sweating buckets.

The road we take is the same as if you are going to Pre Vihear or Koh Ker Temple for most of the way. I am stunned at the change that has occurred since traveled on this road about eight months ago. By 9 am we arrive at the small ticket office for Koh Ker temple, and we stop for 15 minutes. To my surprise, they now have a nice restroom facility here.

From here, the countryside blurs past as my head zings from lack of sleep while i get a copper taste in my mouth. I love travel, ha ha ha. Somewhere in all this, i actually do manage to fall asleep. I awake at about noon just before we cross a large bridge. I check my iPhone and note we are close to the border. Nice, hope we stop soon as i need a restroom quick.

To my surprise, the road we take heads away from what the map says we need to take to go to the border post. Mmm, in South Africa I would have been worried, here, they probably are just going to drop off someone or some cargo for local shops. After about 20 minutes, we pull into a roadside restaurant. Go figure, have to take you to the restaurant or place the bus company owes. As soon as we stop, about 10 of us storm for the one restroom. Reluctantly with water in my eyes, i stand in line. When there is only one person, a girl, left in front of me and a guy in the restroom, i hear a “fuck” coming from the small restroom. I glance at the girl and she just shrugs her shoulders. A few seconds later the guy storms out without a word. The girl goes in, and about two minutes later i hear “eeaaak” and banging on the wall and stomping on the floor coming from the restroom. Just as i am about to ask if she is okay, the door is ripped open and the girls storms out white faced. mmm

Not seeing anything wrong, i decide to relieve myself. Just as i am happily shooting the enamel off the side of the toilet, something runs over my shoe and up my leg. Expertly i flick my leg and throw the thing off without missing a beat on my well aimed firehouse. I give a glance to the side of the toilet and spot the cause of all the commotion, a nice big cockroach. I crack myself laughing, knowing that the girl must have sat on the toilet to relieve herself, only to have a cockroach run over her naked legs or possibly even her bum as they do like to hide under the seat of the toilet. Here is a nice shot of the bugger for you. Always lift the toilet seat in Asia before you sit down.

As i exit the restroom, a girl darts in before i can say anything, so i just smile. I wash my hands at a tap outside, and just as I turn to go to the restaurant, i hear this blood curling scream followed by a number of words i cannot spell here. I walk away giggling.

At the restaurant, we have a staggering amount of options, you can get packets of noodles (3 flavors), or rice with or without and egg. I go with the super meal for $2, rice and egg. Most restaurants in Cambodia have only spoons and if you are lucky, a fork. Knives are for some reason scares, luckily i bring my own. People stare at me as i pull my knife from my belt holster, and i see them shift away uneasily, chickens it is only a small knife.

Time slowly drifts by as we wait for our bus. The place is a stop over and exchange point for the bus company, thus tourists come and go. Now, i have been around Asia a bit, and although i hold a “through bus” ticket from Siem Reap to Vientiane, i knew that we would have to change buses at the border or just before as one bus will not do such a long trek. Thus i am not alarmed at having to wait for a new bus, however a few other tourists are. When some hear i have been in Cambodia for over a year, they are like wow. Silently i am thinking, what’s the big deal, it is just another city in another country. Eventually at 2:23 pm, our bus arrives, and i have to say, i have seen better. We pile in, and i decide to take the front seat across from the driver. With a nice view of the road, i make myself comfortable with the extra leg room. I am not surprised at all when the door of the bus does not want to close, and the conductor has to hold the door closed while we drive. Somewhere, something tells me this is probably not my “through bus” to Vientiane.

Interestingly, we head back over the river, then take some very dodgy roads as we make our way to the Laos-Cambodia border. This border, next to the Poipet border, is the most corrupt borders you get coming into Cambodia. This one more than Poipet, as it is the only border post between Laos and Cambodia.

Cambodia countryside passing by as we make our way to the border.

An hour later, we arrive at the “border”. We are all ushered off the bus by a very agitated sounding guy, that i know is just part of their ploy. They do not want you to argue with them as they hustle money off you.  We are lead into a small Khmer restaurant with a few table where we are handed customs forms and asked to quickly fill out the forms as it is 3:35, and at 4 pm, the prices at the border go up. (true).

Laos-Cambodia border post.



I was thinking it was $30 for a visa, but each country has their own price, and coupled with the “exit and entry stamp fee” and the “service charge fee (the guy’s cut), my fee end up to be $50. It would have been $55, but i was smart enough to bring a passport picture with. It is supposed to be $1 if you do not have a passport picture, but that flew out the window long ago on this post and is now $5 fine. The exit stamp is all bull as no other border post for Cambodia that i have been through charges it, but corruption is corruption. I am by now so tired that i decide to just pay the money. Three tourists refuse to pay, and the guy informs them then they have to do their passports themselves. So off they go to stand in the lines while we sit under the shade and wait.

I ask where the restroom is, and am directed to the scrubs alongside the road. Nice, another camping experience. Following a small footpath deeper into the countryside, i soon come to a site where multiple stomachs have exploded. I carefully sidestep the numerous landmines and booby traps, and head deeper into the countryside where there was no chemical war and it smells better. Tip, always bring toilet paper on long bus rides in Asia.

After relieving myself, i head back and start to talk to some of the other tourists. Two, a couple, is also going to Vientiane, while all the others are going to 4000 islands. A few minutes later the passport guy comes back and calls out a name. I young female backpacker answers. The guy is now very angry because she overstayed her visa. So, she gets fined $5 a day, plus an additional $5 for trying to con them by not telling them beforehand she overstayed and according to them she must have tried to get away with it. Reluctantly she pays. As soon as the guy is gone, we start taking the mickey out of her. The girl actually takes the whole episode with grace. Overstaying is a common thing with tourists, as they think the visa is valid for 90 days, and it is, but you are limited to 30 day blocks, and have to have your stay extended every months for an additional $48 a month.

Not to long later, the guy returns again. They made a calculation error in her number of days that she overstayed, and she owes more money. Luckily she had more cash. Some of the other tourists had to borrow money as they did not expect the visa fees to be so much. Tip, whatever the visa fee is stated online, take at least double that in cash with. Eventually they guy returns, and hands each of us our passports. From here, we follow him and walk about 300 meters across the border, past all the posts without ever stepping inside any office. We are herded to a small bus that is overflowing with gear, and filled with blood sucking mosquitoes. Even opening the windows does nothing as just more from outside join those inside. At the back of my mind, something tells me this cannot be the bus to Vientiane as we have like 900km still to go.

Mosquito quarantine service area. mmmm.


Our next bus. The border post, Laos side at the back.


 Inside the bus, gear all stacked up next to the driver in front.

By now it is 5:13 pm as we pull away. We get about 200 meters when we are flagged down by three desperate people. Jup, they are the guys that went to do their own passports. They admit that after a lot of arguing, they only managed to get the fee down $6 (the guy’s cut) and still had to pay all the other fees even though it was corruption fees. A few miles down the road, just past the border post, the bus stops and we are all told to get off. Ah, i thought this would just be another shuttle bus. We are next to the only building (happens to be a local restaurant) for as far as i can see.

We wait a while, and as the sun starts to set, a smaller bus arrives to take the people to 4000 islands. I ask the driver of the bus where the bus for Vientiane is, and he says soon come, 15 minutes. So now me and the couple that are also going to Vientiane, are standing at a roadside restaurant in the middle of nothing, in Laos. We enter the restaurant where the owner happily greets us and then starts playing with a hula hoop.



By now, having only slept like 2 hours in almost two days, my head is zinging and i am starving. The lady has some chicken already cooked while more is on the fire. The chicken that is ready, is dead, like in you can put it on a truck and use it as a tire for at least 1000 miles. I ask her if i can have some of the chicken on the fire, and she refuses. I am like, but it is ready. No, she goes, it is not. This is my first of many experiences of finding out that Laos people, are extremely inflexible and do not easily negotiate. I almost get tears  in my eyes as i stare at the chicken on the fire turning to rubber.

If it does not bounce seven times when you drop it, it is not ready.

The time drags by, and i ask the other tourists if they had any idea or was told anything about a bus transfer at the border by their travel agent. No they go, but they thought the driver said 50 minutes not 15 minutes. mmm. They then ask me how long it is to Vientiane as they have a hotel booking. I burst out laughing, going, we still have like 14 or so hours and about 900 km to go. They were under the impression it was a days travel from Siem Reap, like in start at 6:30 am and end at 6:30 kinda day. I go, no, the travel time alone is 24 hours, but with bus changes and waiting, it is probably going to be more like 36 hours from Siem reap to Vientiane, i was actually wrong myself, as it would take even longer in the end.

As darkness surrounds us, i get a little bit more worried. Four locals come to sit down, and order soup. I scan the soup and decide that as hungry as i am, i am not going for it. Eventually a large tour bus arrives, and stops a distance from the restaurant. This is kinda strange as i would have expected him to stop and pick us up. I leave my large bag with my clothes with the couple and take my small backpack to go and ask the driver where the bus is going and where our bus is. My heart sinks to my shoes when the driver laughs and says there is no bus to Vientiane. The next bus coming by is 8 am in the morning. He is going to Pakse. So now i am stranded in Laos, with no hotel and a bus ticket that is not valid.

One of the locals that came to eat at the restaurant comes up with the couple following, bringing my bag. He informs us to get on the bus. I go but the bus is not going to Vientiane, it is going to Pakse. Yes he goes, you can get a bus from there to Vientiane. I am like i am not paying for another bus. The guy informs me he is a driver as well and takes people to 4000 islands and we have to get on this bus or we will be stranded. He and the other bus driver then get into a bit for an argument. Eventually the second driver again informs us to get onto the bus, it is our only chance, and will be free. We can change buses in Pakse. So reluctantly, we hop onto a bus while having no idea what this town is we are going to, and if my real bus is not maybe 10 minutes behind us and getting us on this bus is a scam to have me pay again for a bus ticket when i get to Pakse. Well, just part of the adventure.

The bus however, is not that full, and at least i can get some sleep. The bus also has a toilet on board, although it is the same as the one that was on the bus to Kampot from Phnom Penh, so you only use it just before you crap in your pants.

The miles fly by, and by 9:45 pm, we eventually pull into Pakse. The bus pulls into a tour bus station, and as we get off i look around for our second bus. Nothing. I ask the driver where the bus to Vientiane is and show him my though ticket. He goes, “tomorrow morning, 7 am bus leaves, get new ticket.” Crap, so now i  have to overnight in a town and then repay for a ticket to Vientiane, nice. After some arguing with tuk tuks, we eventually find one that will take us to town for 10 000 Kip each. (as normal in Asia buses do not stop in town so that you have to take a tuk tuk).  US$1 is around 8000 Kip. The tuk tuk is actually just a small truck with two bench seats on the back. We are dropped of at the edge of town next to an expensive hotel. I try to pay the driver with US$, and even though i offer him $2, he refuses to take it, Kip only. Not having any, and not being able to exchange any from any of the other tourists, i head to the hotel across the road and exchange some $US at a loss. The hotel charges $22 a night, and although they are fancy, it is way above what i am prepared to pay. I head back and pay the driver, then check on my iPhone for hotels. There are around 9 hotels and guesthouses around us. I walk down the road, and am shocked to find that they are all full.

Returning to the now left over tourist that did not book into the expensive hotel (the couple and two other women), i inform them the other hotels are full, but i note on my phone map there are two more hotels up the road, i will scout them out. They agree to wait and i head up to the first one. Yes, they have rooms, with a single going for $10. Happy, i head back, only to find the other group checking into the expensive hotel. at $22 for two people, and paying in pounds, it is a steal for them. I think i have been in Asia too long.

I head back to the hotel and say okay, i will take a single room, but i want to see the room first. The guy agrees, and takes me to a nice room, that actually has two single beds in. I try the wi-fi, and it does not work. No he goes, no wi-fi in the small rooms, only the big rooms for $15. I am like, well it is 10 pm at night, i will be out by 6 am, how about i get the big room for $10. No the guy goes, $10 for the small room, wi-fi in the corridor, or $15 for the big room near the wi-fi sender. I go, okay, $12. No, the guy goes. Wow, in Cambodia i would have been able to negotiate the guy down, but it seems in Laos they absolutely do not negotiate. So i decide to go see what else i can find. About 100 meters up the road from the hotel, i spot another hotel, in a side street. In Cambodia, things would just start to come alive at 10 pm, especially so close to so many hotels that are fully booked. Here, it looks like a graveyard. At the corner of the side road leading to the hotel, is a small restaurant, and the only one currently open. As i walk past the waiter asks me if i want food. i say a bit later, i first want to find a bed. He just shrugs his shoulders as i walk on. The hotel turns out to be a family run business, and does have a room, $12. By now i am so tired that i just agree, but again want to see the room before i pay.

We go up to the room, and it smells. I refuse, and they are like, okay, we give you another room. It is far better, and has two single beds as well, and the wi-fi works, although crappy. I take it, put my gear down, and follow the receptionist down to pay. As i try to pay in $, they have a problem and have to call the owner to get change. A few minutes later, the guy i thought was the waiter, turns up. He owns the hotel and the restaurant. I pay my bill, then head to the restaurant, only to find it closed. Well done. Walking up and down the street past the hotels and backpacker places i saw where people were having food earlier, i now find everything closed. Very nice going. So i head back to my room and dig into my emergency stash. (always have emergency food). A nice bowl of dry oats.


I try the internet to see what hotels there are in Vientiane, and cannot get a connection. Outside the hotel, a storm is picking up and the wind is howling. I go downstairs and wake the receptionist that is sleeping on a makeshift bed next to the desk. He informs me that actually only the corner unit has wi-fi, and will move me as it is the same room size. So, eventually, i get a room with wi-fi.

By now it is almost 12pm, and i have the sneaky suspicion that i need to be at the bus station well before 7 am. So i decide that i will head out at 6 am and take a tuk tuk to there. (just over 2 km up the road). However, as i did not pack my travel alarm, i know if i fall asleep now, i will never hear the iPhone (happened before) and will sleep right thought. So reluctantly, i watch YouTube videos and work on my books as i try to stay awake. Unfortunately, that does not help, and somewhere while watching American ninja on YouTube, I fall asleep.

Stay tuned to find out what happened next.