After spending a month traveling in Vietnam I had become used to long bus journeys, on bad roads, but this is the story of what I believe to be one of the worst journeys on the planet; the 26 hour ride from Hanoi to Vientiane in Laos. First things first this bus journey is around a 10th of the price of flying; so it is a good option if traveling on a budget and are able to deal with bad conditions, and if nothing else it is an experience.
So, we wait for the bus to turn up at our guest house and its half an hour late, we are among the last travellers to board, so we are right up the front, I take a top bunk because, after a month in this country, I know what is about to happen and you never, ever want to be on that bottom bunk. We drive for a short while and arrive at the bus station, where all manner of people join the already full bus and begin to lie in the aisle. First a man got on carrying a chicken in a basket, acting as though this was no stranger than carrying a packet of biscuits. Around ten to fifteen others boarded the bus including four children, all cramped up in the aisle, then the worst thing that you could imagine being on a 26 hour bus ride boarded…a woman carrying a newborn baby!! One look at this bus told her that there was no possible way she could care for this baby on the floor, so she honed in on me, as one of the only female travellers on this god forsaken bus!!! She held the baby up to me and said “you watch” I felt bad but – hell no! This is going to be bad enough without looking after a baby…I’m not proud but, I shook my head and folded my arms. She moved on to the next girl two seats behind me, she was French and spoke limited English, so when the lady spoke English to her in a Vietnamese accent and handed her a baby, she had no idea what to say, but written all over her face was “what the fuck is happening to me”!! The lady then sat on the floor by the French girl and pretended not to understand when the girl tried to hand back the baby.
After thanking my lucky stars that I said no the journey began. About an hour in the American guy in the bunk next to me started a conversation and he was the biggest douche on the planet “my dad owns some big car company and I’ve been traveling around the world for years and years and iv hardly had to work…isn’t it fantastic” so I knocked myself out with a lot of sleeping pills.
I woke up hours later and was absolutely desperate for a wee, I asked my boyfriend if I had missed any toilet breaks and he said that they had only stopped at the side of the road so far, we were six hours in, so I thought that surely we would stop soon – I was very, very wrong. I asked the driver if we could make a toilet stop. “Yer sure” and we pull over on the side of the road, not even near a tree! So I have to carry on holding whilst all of the men pee. Then the baby starts crying, the French girl looks like she’s going to start crying, the chicken starts clucking and the American douche try’s to strike up another conversation…I’m in hell! Then one of the local men starts coughing up phlegm…I knock myself out once more.
I can’t breathe, I’m coughing and it feels extremely claustrophobic, I wake up and the engine has stopped and everyone is asleep. We are at the boarder but it is not open, with the engine and air conditioning off you can feel everyone’s breath; it’s warm and smelly. Two hours later they wake everybody and usher us of the bus, we collect our bags and cue at the border, most importantly there is finally a toilet – and I have never been so happy. We pay $2 each to leave the country then walk for about a mile into Laos and pay another $30 each. There is a small shop that sells cookies and sweets, it is the closest to a food break we get, I don’t buy water as the toilet situation is disastrous. Now that it is daytime I can look out of the window at scenery to pass the time, it is some pretty good scenery. I knock myself out one last time and arrive at around 6pm in Vientiane. No more chicken, no more baby crying and a toilet and food, life is good again!