An 8-hour local busride over a “really bad road” (although none of the roads seem very good, and everyone we ask keeps smiling, so how bad can it be), or going back on ourselves, making the same trip maybe a bit less bumpy, but also definitely with 2 stops and over 24 hours in the tourist bus that would be a lot more expensive. We’re about to find out how bad a “really bad road” actually is in Laos.
Busride from Hell (Phonsavan – Paksan)
It was hell. Seriously. First of all, there wasn’t a bad road, seeing how for about 10 hours (of the 12,5 as it turned out) there was no road. No Road. We were in a local bus that looked like it was going to fall apart, and it was full with Lao. The only foreigners on the bus (and hence, quite the novelty) were me, Tom and an American couple I talked into taking this bus with us. Oops…
Besides local people, there were bags of rice stack three or four high in the aisle, people sitting on plastic seats on top of that, 2 guesthouse-signs on the roof that were delivered to little villages in the middle of nowhere.
So, there we were in the middle of nowhere, driving through holes and over bumps the size of half the bus. Driving through rivers that were so high, the water came in the bus. The busdriver really took his customers home. Meaning that he would stop, and then drive another ten meters if he got the wrong house. So that the locals didn’t have to walk any more than necessary with their bags of rice. This was all pretty bad.
Of course we got a flat tire along the way, but all of this was do-able. Endurable. What made me go insane on this bus, wasn’t the cliffedges just a few centimeters next to me, and it wasn’t the ridiculous honking the driver did the whole time to warn villages kilometres away that we were coming, it was the Thai Karaoke.
There was a TV in the bus and a stack of scratched Thai karaoke DVDs and the people in the front were going through finding one song per DVD that would work, and playing them at full volume. And not like anyone was singing along to it, but I know now why Lao people would get deaf. This was ridiculous. There was no way of drowning it out with my MP3-player, or reading to take my mind of this busride. Instead I was there the whole time. Thai karaoke blasting in my ears, scary maneuvers to overtake cows and endless honking and bumping.
After 12,5 hours of that you’d be happy to get off anywhere, right? They dumped us in the least tourist-y town of Laos, where they’d never heard of English, the beds were hard and the only food we could have a noodlesoup (third time that day). I left Paksan the next day, even though I was exhausted. On to Savannakhet for some relaxing time. Here’s some videos of that disasterride: