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Andy’s Travel Diary

Friday, 19 Jan 2007

Location: Journey to Si Phan Don, Laos

MapLUANG PRUBANG TO SOUTHERN LAOS
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It was time to leave Luang Prubang, a place close to my heart - where freshly baked french pastries are served on the same street as seaweed noodle soup. I could live here.

We were both looking forward to the journey back to Vientiane, mainly because of the views. Unfortunately it was overcast and slightly hazy so the scenery along Route 13 (cue thunder and lightning) was less than spectacular.

After 12 hours, during which i was befriended by a local Lao man who insisted on teaching me the numbers up to ten in his language even when i feigned sleep, we arrived safely and spent a day or so in Vientiane waiting for our bus down south.

The Foreign Office website warns against night travel in Laos due to the lack of street lighting, awful drivers and potholed roads. We had no choice however, a night bus to Pakse would save us money on accomodation and give us extra time in the south before our visas ran out.

The journey lasted ten hours - ten hours of thundering down narrow roads, ten hours of the driver leaning on his horn, ten hours of swerving at the last moment to avoid oncoming vehicles or bikes with no lights. In short ten hours of fearing i would not reach my destination in one handsome piece.

Midway through the night we stopped at motorway services (a misnomer in Laos, a country with no motorways), a small collection of wooden stalls selling sweets, biscuits and drinks. I was buying some provisions when the whole area was suddenly plunged into darkness. Immediately candles were lit and selling continued. Power outages are a common feature in Laos, it's infrastructure is antiquated and inadequate.

We arrived in Pakse around six o clock in the morning bleary eyed and tired but decided to press on because there is little of interest in the town. We boarded a filthy, run down bus for a further three hours.

An hour or so later we stopped at the side of the road. Local women who had been waiting patiently grabbed sticks of chicken, kidneys, liver and overgrown grasshoppers, upped and ran towards the bus, jumping on board squaking and clucking like a group of hens. Stupidly i opened a window to have a closer look. Locusts and sticks of some unidentifiable meat were thrust through into my face until i bought one. Poor Ruth woke up from a deep sleep on the other side of the coach unable to spot the women. All she could see was food magically dancing by itself past the windows and bursting into the carriage in some disturbing take on that famous song and dance from Beauty and the Beast.

I was hungry so I ate the mysterious meat. What was it? I have no idea. Defintiely not chicken though. Rat perhaps.

Our last mode of transport was a small wooden longboat across to Don Khang and a place where we could finally rest our heads, the Four Thousand Islands.