3/24 – the story continues from previous post, 15 hours into our bus ride:
We walked into the golden stupa at Boten, which welcomed us to Laos. We had to fill out forms and purchase visas here, which was no trouble. Bring a passport photo, and the equivalent of $35.00. Other blogs indicated that we would have to pay in US dollars, but we had no trouble paying in yuan. We then had to stand in line to get through Customs.
When we emerged, I couldn’t see anyone else from our bus, but we could still see the big blue bus on the line of vehicles going through the border crossing. There were plenty of people standing around, so we stood too. After a while, the bus to Ventiane that had been behind us pulled up, and most of the people started getting on. A taxi driver approached us and tried to usher us into his taxi. No, no, we said, we don’t need a taxi. We’re waiting for our bus. With little English, he indicated we should get in his taxi to get to our bus. Now I was worried. Where were the other people from our bus? We walked back across the border, and the big blue thing we mistook for our bus was actually a big blue truck. Oh no! The bus left without us!
We went back to where the people were boarding the other bus. One man had a phone, and called someone, and handed me the phone. A female, in stilted English, said our bus was 8 kilometers down the road, and we had to take a taxi to catch up. That explains the insistence of the taxi driver – our bus driver must have sent him when he realized we were not on board. But where was he now? When we refused to get in his taxi, he had gone. We were stranded! We looked up and down the street, but there were no other taxis to be found. Then the Ventiane bus pulled up and opened its doors. The driver indicated that we could hop on. He would take us to our bus! We sat on the front step for a 10 minute ride down the road, and breathed a sigh of relief when we spotted Big Blue in front of a thatch covered eatery. We thanked the driver and ran back to our bus, where our driver was looking a little worried. We agreed not to let the bus out of our sight again!
We got something to eat, although my stomach was in a knot, and got back on the bus. Now that it was daytime, I wished I could sit up, but lying in my bunk was really the only option. Tried to take some pix out the window, with limited success.
We see wild pigs, a water buffalo, goats and chickens in the street. When the bus stops for a break, the men pee over the cliff on one side, while we women squat behind a big rock on the other. The road is so narrow that only one vehicle can pass at a time, so we stop whenever there is oncoming traffic. It’s slow going, and very bumpy where the road is not paved. We read that during the wet season, buses cannot complete this journey. It’s a gray day, and I hope it’s not going to rain!
Somehow, the afternoon passes, and now it is dark. As we approach our destination, the driver stops whenever we get near where someone lives, and he has to get out to retrieve their baggage from the storage area. Then we pass some restaurants, and the bus stops to deliver boxes of supplies. At 9:30pm, 27 hours after we boarded, we finally pull into Luang Prabang. I’m so tired I can hardly see. A Chinese couple from the bus ask if they can share a tuk-tuk with us, and we all pile in. The night air is warm, and there are flowers everywhere. Our guest house is right in the middle of town, and we register and tumble gratefully into a hot shower and a soft bed. We’re here!