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Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus

Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus
Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus
I suppose it is inevitable that a journey through a dozen countries would include transportation from a variety of planes, trains and automobiles. Including days where the itinerary reads something like spend all waking hours on a bus. All part of the adventure! Our first long bus ride was the journey to cross Laos, from Vientiane to Luang Prabang – from the new capital to the old capital. And from the last two updates, you might think I’m ready to whinge about being completely uncomfortable, worried about a million species of small insects and really wishing I was one of those lucky people who have never experienced travel sickness. But I promise you right now: I shall not be saying any such thing. For I may have left a bit more of my heart in Laos than I ever left in San Francisco.

Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus
There are those who love to research every little detail of a place before they arrive, so they can be fully aware and recognise what they see, almost as if they have been there before and are just visiting home after many years. I’ve been that person sometimes. On this trip, I really am not. I’m reading a lot as we go, and I have a big habit of jotting down the names of various places we might see during the day then plugging them into Wikipedia the next time we grab some wi-fi access. (It’s a little different but I’m actually quite enjoying that system!) Of all the countries we’re visiting, Laos was the biggest unknown quantity. Neither of us had been there before and neither of us read much about it. I think it was mentioned in one single lesson of my high school history classes. I’m not sure how many Westerners could point to it on a map, much less tell me what to expect there.

Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus
Which makes it the perfect place to cross by bus, during the day, to get an idea of exactly what lies on the line between those two points. Small villages set by the road, happy to make a few sales to the buses that pass a few times a day. Homes made from grass but accompanied by satellite dishes. Scenery that includes mountains and valleys, blue skies and moody clouds, jungle and prairie.

Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus
As much as my poor head can’t fathom why I would want to sit on a vehicle that continues to zig and zag around tight corners and climb and descend enough that my ears don’t know whether to pop or unpop, my more sentimental side was amazed to see little mountain scenes like this that reminded me of Iceland but with an entirely different climate. That alone may explain why I fell in love with Laos. Oh how I can wax lyrical about Iceland all the livelong day, I promise.

Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus
But also because there is a sheer happiness here that does what this kind of travel should do: refresh the soul and put things into perspective. Once the bus rounded this corner, this little girl turned and ran to our windows with the biggest smile, just waving as fast as her hands could. That smile is one we saw all over this country. Especially from children – children who don’t have a toy box filled with gizmos or the latest pair of shoes. There’s a great deal of imperfection here for children too. So much. Please don’t think that my go-first-read-second approach to this place left me with that much naivete. But there is just this little bit of something right to see happiness in simplicity. Something much sweeter than many things we have seen elsewhere along our journey. For this bus ride, anyway, it was a little contagious. I found I was still smiling even when our bus broke down at the side of the road and we had an hour or so of sitting still while the driver bashed at some whatsits with a hammer until we could drive again.

Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus
Plus, it’s not so often that when you break down at the side of the road, this is the view from your window. My head was happy for the chance to stop moving for a little while anyway.

More about what we found when our bus eventually arrived soon. But crafty stuff first.


18 January 2011

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15 Comments for Travel Notes on Crossing Laos by bus

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Ahh, how I loved Laos too. Especially sunsets over Luang Prabang. The whole country has a certain essence that will never leave you once you’ve been there I think. Glad you enjoyed your bus journey. x

  2. Lizzie Says:

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure! I think the bus is the best way to explore a country. You see much more by road, than you often would by rail, as the bus goes through villages, instead of round them and usually makes stops in their centres too.
    I enjoyed a trip by bus from the Gozo ferry point, to Valetta in Malta. It’s a few miles and goes through lots of little places. We shared our bus with locals and even a few chickens!
    I’m sure I couldn’t have seen and learned as much in a car or coach.
    I hope you continue to enjoy your trip – it sounds as if you are having a very wonderful time! Best wishes to you both. x

  3. Donna B Says:

    Sweetie, I have always said a smile can say something nice to everyone who sees it. This sounds much better than blisters on feet. Be safe you two.

  4. Casey Wright Says:

    Oh – how I love reading about your traveling adventures. Thank you for sharing your journey with us and letting us have a peek at a part of the world that a few of us may never see. :)

  5. SarahLP Says:

    Wow… sounds like an incredible place.. I really enjoyed your account of Laos, Shimelle.

  6. HelenW Says:

    Reading your travel notes brings back so many menories! I also loved Laos, definately my favourite country of all my travelling and definately the place to get your head out of the ‘Lonely’ and make it up as you go along. I wonder if you are going to catch the slow boat to Huay Xai from Luang Prabang like we did… I would definately recommend staying in Luang as long as you can as it is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever been to. H

  7. Elizabeth Says:

    I’ve read and heard a bit about Laos but you made it come alive in your descriptions. Thanks for bringing us along on your travels.

  8. Sinead Says:

    I didn’t know anything about Laos before reading this post – your writing is so inspiring and interesting, would love to visit there now!

  9. LisaE Says:

    You really brought Laos to my living room with your honest and witty writing. Enjoy your adventures!

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