Making a Run for the Border

Bus, Laos, Lost Girls RTW Adventure — By on March 2, 2007 at 8:00 pm

After experiencing life at a languorous pace for nearly two weeks in Laos, Jen and I procrastinated as long as we could in booking the taxis, tuk-tuks, buses and plane flights we’d need to meet up with our friend Beth several hundred miles south in Phuket.

With several tight connections ahead of us, Jen and I decided to pay the extra two dollars to ride the “VIP” bus, which was scheduled to arrive in Vientiane (the capital of Laos) an hour earlier than the standard coach. We hardly complained when the AC refused to cough up cool air, the windows wouldn’t open and the humidity shot up to a level somewhere between “greenhouse” and “dishwasher,” but once we realized our driver was operating some profitable side-scam (stopping the bus every twenty minutes to transport cargo between roadside towns), we started to get a little prickly. Rolling along in the mobile sauna, it seemed we were going nowhere-and as slowly as possible.

Finally, more than ten hours after we’d departed from Luang Prubang (and nearly three hours late), we reached the Northern Bus Station in Vientiane and learned our troubles weren’t over. If we had any hopes of catching the final bus over the border, we now had to transfer to the Southern Station, completing the twenty-minute drive in about six minutes. Throwing almost all of our remaining currency at a delighted tuk-tuk driver, we raced across town and spotted the very bus we needed just as it was pulling out of the depot.

“That’s our ride!” I screeched, pissed that we’d come so close just to watch our carefully laid plans go up in a cloud of carbon monoxide.

By now I knew that there are several things a backpacker should never count on, with responsible bus drivers, on-time schedules and working air-con topping the list. But I was also learning that for every local experience that frustrates the hell out of you, you’ll have one that blows you away.

Hearing my screams from the back of his vehicle, our tuk-tuk driver rammed his foot into the gas paddle like Dale Earnhart, Jr. coming down the home stretch. He chased the bus down the road, pulling up alongside so he could scream up to the operator and gesticulate wildly with his free hand. I’m not sure how he managed to convince the guy to open up both the passenger door and the cargo hold in the middle of a four-lane highway, but the next thing I knew, my bags were being tossed underneath the bus and Jen and I were dodging between cars to jump up on board.

“No forget shirt!” the tuk-tuk driver shouted after us, then proceeded to send the long-sleeve top I’d left across the road in a Hail Mary pass. Jen lunged to catch it, then leapt up to join me on the bus just as the stalled cars and trucks drowned us in a cacophony of honking.

Once the doors slammed shut, we started walking down the aisle and noticed every single passenger gaping at us like we’d suddenly transformed into Ed Rooney at the end of Ferris Buller’s Day Off.

So much for trying to blend in.

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    1 Comment

  • Timen says:

    What a fantastic story. Haha… it’s as if I were there. I, too, was frustrated with the different bus stations. Northern, southern, eastern, western, northeastern, etc.