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Leaving Vietnam for Laos and New Adventure

Vientiane, Laos

The border

They won't let me cross with bike!!!!!
Think it is driving across, not a technical problem with ownership- they don't let any bikes across hete!
Maybe I could hire a truck to take it and me across?

That didn't work out. Went back to guesthouse and sold the bike to the innkeeper. Got 150 bucks and a free night for it. He also called a bus company for me and booked me on a bus to Laos. Originally I thought I would leave at 1 am but it became 6 am instead. That's the pattern here , things take time and schedules are flexible. The innkeeper's family invited me for dinner and so my last meal in Vietnam was homecooked, we had roast pork that was sliced with boiled onions and cucumber, tofu that was fried with some hot spices, a very spicy fried fish, soup with greens, and sticky rice. They also gave me a beer, but I was the only one with any kind of beverage so that felt weird.

Up to bed for a few hours sleep and in the morning when I went downstairs the innkeeper was crashed out on the,small sofa in the sitting room/lobby. I shook him awake and he went to his phone and texted someone then made a phone call and after that he said we would wait for a phone call and then go. Around 7 am the call came in and he gave me a lift on his scooter to a main corner on the town and waited with me until the bus came. The bus was a 20 passenger model that they were cramming 30 or more into and cost 150,000 Dong for the trip unto Laos. When I paid I thought this was pretty cheap to go all the way to Vientiane, Laos capitol city about 450 k away and they had saved me a one person seat on the right side of the bus so for a little while I had my own space. Away we went stopping in smaller hamlets along the way to drop off or pick up passengers and once for a short breakfast stop. After that we began the trip up into the mountains that line the border here and the air began to cool off and the hamlets fell behind as we climbed higher and higher. You first know you are at the border when you see a cobbled together shack flying a large Vietnamese flag. The actual border immigration control building is more modern. We filed off the bus and there was a mad rush to the 'DEPARTURES' area where you slid your passport across a counter and under a glass partition to a guard who watched another guard process it. When they took mine the guard said " No Moto", and I assured him that I was on "xe buyt" not on a motorcycle. It was pretty busy at the counter with people cramming in behind and around me shoving their passports,under and speaking to the guard. I saw,my bus drive through a checkpoint behind me and got just a little worried about being left behind, but there was a whole other process to go through on the Laotian side so I relaxed and let it all unfold.

Eventually the one guy who was working the computer got to my passport, ran it through the computer, squinted at it a couple of times and stamped and returned it to me.

After that I walked through a border checkpoint and showed my processed passport and left Vietnam.

It was a short .5 k walk past my bus, which was waiting to be checked in to Laos, to the Laos Visa on Arrival Office. I was the only one in this line happily and got the forms I needed from an unsmiling young bureaucrat. They required a passport sized photo and fortunately I had purchased some in Australia, after a short delay they issued my 1 month Visa for 38 US dollars.
Next stop was the Currency Exchange where I converted all my Vietnamese Dong to Laos Lip and got what I think was about $300 and left there for a little store by the roadside where I bought a Coke for 5,000 Kip and waited for my bus which I could see in line at the Laos border checkpoint.

Back on the bus and the two fellows next to me laughed and tried to start a conversation and one of the whistled a tune so I thought, "why not sing some bus songs"? and started with " the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round" which cracked up half of the bus because I think they know this song! The other half looked at me like I was nuts and possibly dangerous, so I switched to " 99 bottles of beer on the wall" but that didn't take off like I had hoped, but my seatmates were amused and pleased all the same.

Now the bus seemed to have climbed to a plateau and there was a beautiful clear river running beside us on my side of the bus. This area looks much poorer than Vietnam, but maybe that is the Bordertown nature of it. We drive on to very small villages and one by one my fellow travelers exit the bus to family and friends.
I believed that the bus was going to Vientiane, the Captiol of Laos, but I was mistaken and the bus dropped me off at a local bus stop still 400 k short of my destination.

The bus stop was a roofed over concrete pad about 30 by 30 meters with rough wooden benches and a little snack area run by three girls who were BBQing meat skewers over a small open flame. There were about 20 people waiting in the area and every so often a small pickup with benches in back and covers over the bed would back up to the pad and people would jam in and load packages of various kinds, mostly old rice sacks filled with ????? on top of the roof cover. Often the driver would throw a tarp over the "luggage" before driving off. As the people jammed in they would also bring parcels and suitcases in the back and try to fit them amongst their co-riders. The impression I had many times were that I was seeing large families traveling together so they were fine with the crowding.

I found a blackboard that had departures listed and I could see that the bus to,Vientiane didn't leave until 5:30 pm and it was 11:30 am now, so I had a long wait ahead. I spent the 6 hours walking around and buying snacks occasionally and just watching the scene.

Finaly 5:30 rolled around and I was on the bus with a row to myself. I soon figured out a way to stretch my legs across the aisle and caught a nap that way. The bus stopped for a quick dinner in a town that had bonfires burning in the street, very Mad Max-ish! They sell incredible BBQ meat on a stick! They had a whole pork chop on a stick even! I bought some BBQ that was on a kind of bamboo string in loops. Very tasty.

Back on the bus for a total of 6 hours and finally getting into Vientiane at 11:30. The Tuk Tuk driver wanted 100,000 kip jut to run me downtown and since it only cost 85,000 to come over 400 k I said "No thanks" and he, like a smartass pointed at the bus benches in the station. That was,fine with me and I explored the station and realized they had a roach motel there so I got a room for 60,000 kip (no aircon or hygiene in particular) giving me the last laugh obtuse Tuk Tuk driver!

The next morning I set out for downtown with my monster sized pack on my back and my small pack in my hands. At 8 am it was 90 degrees with 90 % humidity so after 2 k I was rethinking my plan in a bit of distress when a bus pulled up next to me and the driver motioned me in. For 3,000 kip I got my ride downtown in an airconditioned bus full of women going to work. I was kind of a mess since the motel bathroom had no shower or sanitation to speak of so I felt sorry for the girl in high heels and makeup next to me who probably was wondering how this had happened to her. Extra offerings to the commuter God probably followed the next day!

Now I was downtown but I still had no idea where the backpacker area was and even the Tuk Tuk drivers didn't understand what I wanted, so I ducked into a place for breakfast and eventually, after a couple of tries, found something on the menu they would make for me (scrambled eggs) and kicked back with an iced coffee. The coffee here is nowhere near as good as Vietnamese coffee. I guess they just don't appreciate it as much. After eating I once again threw all my stuff on my back and set out into the inferno.

I walked one block and coming towards me was a Western girl with a map and I immediately glommed onto her like a long lost twin.her name,as 'Amanda' and she was in Vientiane getting her Thai working Visa for her job teaching English in Chang Mai. She was heading to a hostel and she let me tag along. It was a long walk, but worth it and I was able to get a single room and they even have a pool and BBQ's a couple of times a week for cheap. Awesome!!

On that note I will leave you wanting and tease you with the title of my next post-

permalink written by  Mike_Veine on August 23, 2013 from Vientiane, Laos
from the travel blog: Hanoi and Vietnam- Living Day to Day
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Great topic about Vietnam. Nice sharing!

permalink written by  Avia on August 23, 2013

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I am a Yank retiring abroad and going a fun journey starting now and ending.....?

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