Sunday, September 24, 2006

Trip: Lao PDR
Date: September 24, 2006
Place: Luang Prabang

Today I took a bus from Vientiane to Luang Prabang. The trip took 11 hours (starting at 6:30am) and cost $10. I was initially going to fly ($60 ticket), but the flight times got me in about the same time as the bus, so I decided to save some money and see the countryside. It was definitely the right decision because the Lao countryside is AMAZING!! Unfortunately the windows on my bus were so dirty that I couldn't take pictures, but I am hoping to rent a scooter the day after tomorrow to do some more sightseeing.

We drove past tons of charming little farming villages where the huts were made of bamboo. The mountains were amazing. In one part it looked as if someone just ripped the top off of the earth; the stones looked like jagged teeth covered in dense, lush, green forest. There were small rivers flowing in the valleys and fishermen were out on their boats. Even though the ride was long, it was very picturesque.

Some interesting observations about travelling by bus in Lao:
1) You are allowed to smoke (yuck!) Or maybe you are not allowed to smoke, but the guy in the seat next to me did it anyway. He kept blowing the smoke out the window, but of course since air was coming in through the window, not going out, the smoke just came back in. I was not the only passenger who was annoyed by this!
2) They did stop for lunch and a bathroom break about midway through, which was nice.
3) The Lao people just throw their trash out of the window (much to my horror!) Sadly the county roads were litered with trash.
4) It is apparently socially acceptable for men to hock a lugey and spit out the window (frequently at that!)
5) The "VIP bus" is like an old schoolbus, minus the yellow color...
6) As in Thailand, the bus was almost all locals (just one other "Westerner" and me)

The only downside of the trip, aside from the smoking man (who was also a lugey hocker), was that the poor girl sitting next to me kept vomiting. At first I thought that she might have motion sickness, but I asked her and she said "no", so it might have been the flu (I am taking vitamin C tonight!!). At one of our reststops I got out some of my peppermint oil and gave it to her. She seemed better for the next thirty minutes, but then sadly the vomiting started again. The poor thing must have thrown up six or seven times! (I have found that peppermint oil usually works best for stomach aches and mild nausea...)

So after I arrived in Luang Prabang, the first order of business was to find a guesthouse. I had the name of one ready, but when I arrived they were full, so this guy off the street convinced me to go to his guesthouse (which was only two doors down from the original one.) Item number two was to find a laundry service since I am running low on clean clothes; thankfully, my guest house had a laundry service! Item three was dinner. There is a charming little restaurant a couple of doors down from my restaurant which serves Lao food by candlelight, so I ate there. They also organize tours to the Pak Ou Caves for very reasonable prices ($4!), so since that is where I wanted to go tomorrow anyway, I signed up for that (check off item four). The restaurant also has $3 Lao massages, so that will be item six (Heather would kill me if I didn't get one..) right after item five, visit internet cafe...

One final note pertaining to the internet cafe... I happened to log on to Skype last night and Dad was online! The cafe (like this one) had a headset, so I actually had my first Skype call yesterday! Dad couldn't see the movie of me, but the voice quality was amazing! It was pretty cool to talk to him from Lao!

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