Tag Archives: sleeper bus

Boten, Laos to Luang Prabang, Laos

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!image

 

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.image image

 

We are definitely not in China anymore.  We pass little villages with thatched roof shacks, and children playing in the dirt. Note that the huts are equipped with satellite dishes.image image

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!

By mid afternoon, we are stopped more than we are moving. The road is being paved, and we get to watch whole families working at the roadside.image

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!

Kunming, China to the Laotian Border

3/23 – Today is our last day in China, and we have some errands to run.  Most important, Jim has to find some more Lipitor.  We’ve had no trouble refilling his prescription in Europe, Türkiye, and the former Soviet countries, but this medicine is prohibitively expensive in China.  Jim’s research indicates that cholesterol medicine is not something widely prescribed here.  After trying several pharmacies, we walked into a hospital and tried the pharmacy there.  They had the generic equivalent of Zocor, a similar drug, so we purchased a month’s worth, standing on three different lines to get registered in the system, pay up front, then collect the pills.  Bureaucracy aside, we probably got them faster then waiting for a pickup at Walgreens, and without a word of language…

We ate lunch, packed up and left our hotel by 3pm, to take the Metro to the South Coach Station for our bus to Laos.  The Metro is brand-sparkly new, with attendants to help you purchase tickets from automated machines, and attendants to help you board the train. This photo courtesy of Google. image
You wait for your train behind a wall with sliding glass doors that don’t open until the train arrives, so no one can accidentally fall onto the tracks. image
The stations are announced both in Chinese and English.  The cars weren’t packed full.  It was a great experience!
Kunming recently built four bus stations located at the four compass points of the city, to spread out the traffic jams that used to occur at the central bus station. If you are traveling south, your bus leaves from the South station. So logical!  Here is Jim waiting for our bus to arrive.image

We boarded our overnight sleeper bus at 6pm for the 400 mile, 24 hour trip south across the Chinese border at Mohan to Luang Prabang, Laos. Some of the buses looked new and posh, but ours looked like it had seen better days, and lots of mud.image

The bus has three rows of double-decker bunks running head-to-toe, and an area in the back where it looks like lots of people are just crammed together.  No toilet on board, but we understand that the bus will stop every few hours.image

Jim and I have bunks on the left aisle, so we can see out the window.  The folks in the middle aren’t so lucky.  We’ve been issued blankets and pillows covered with light blue flannel sheets featuring Snoopy (spelled Snopy – in China, close is good enough…) and Woodstock – this is going to be just like a fun sleepover!  At 5’6″, I fit comfortably in my bunk, with my feet touching the board at Jim’s head.  At 6’3″, Jim looks like a pretzel.  One of our fellow passengers pantomimed that Jim would be better off stretching out on the floor!  Before too long, the rocking of the bus lulled us to sleep.
3/24 – at 2am, the bus stopped, and stayed stopped until 5am.  What’s the use of an all night bus if it’s not going to drive all night?  We’ll never know.  Today is Jim’s birthday.  He said there is no way he would rather spend his day…
At 10am we reached the border at Mohan, and officially left China, then walked up to the golden stupa that welcomed us to Laos.

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This epic saga continues in the next post!