We finally left Ton Sai on Friday the 23rd and got a bus up to Bangkok. Again we took the easy way and took a tourist bus. I have a love hate relationship with the tourist busses. I do not like the way they prohibit you from having a true Thai experience, but I do enjoy the comfort that they offer. The company rounded up everyone who was going in a certain direction then gave us all stickers that were color coded to our final destination. They put us on a bus then shipped us off to a stopping point that was owned by them, so we had to eat the food they sold or wander a ways away to find our own, which we did. We had to wait again for the next bus, then get on it and repeat the process. The bus is all tourists and no Thais, except for the driver and his relief. This bus ride took 12 hours and we got back to Koh San Road at around 6:00am, on Saturday.
We were sick of being treated like cattle, so when we got to Bangkok, we checked my mail at the guesthouse I had been staying at, and went to the local bus station. It took us a little while, but we found a ticket to the boarder town of Nong Kai. We bought a ticket that would put us at the boarder at around 5:00am, and it opened at 6:00am. We still had a few hours to burn, and weren’t sure what we were going to do, but one of the women who worked behind the counter was about to take her lunch break at a giant outdoor market and wanted us to join her. (We were the only foreigners in the entire station) She paid for our bus ride to the market and we accompanied her there where she led us around for an hour before taking us to a small place inside the open air market. I told her to choose food for all of us, as long as it was not too spicy. She got us a pork and egg dish with rice that was excellent. We found out that she has a 21-year-old son and a 24-year-old son. We paid for her meal and thanked her, letting her know we would see her back at the bus station but that we were going to wander for a while.
We made it back to the station with plenty of time, and got on the bus half an hour early. These busses are a step down from the tourist busses, and a big step. Before we left, the bus was packed completely full, and people were sitting in the aisle on plastic stools. I had my eye mask, pillow and earplugs so I was ok, but still did not sleep that well. The bus stopped every 30 minutes or so and people got on, off and it was crazy. Sometimes we would stop and half the bus would rush off to go to the bathroom, so we would stumble out of our sleep stupor, run to the bathroom, and come back. We were always the slowest ones. Once Jared and I had to run back to the door because the bus was threatening to leave us! We had only been gone about three minutes!
This ride quickly got old, and then we had to switch busses at 2:00am to another one that drove the rest of the way to the boarder town. We got in at 3:00am. The boarder did not open until 6:00am. There was no going back to sleep at this point, so we had a breakfast of tea, coffee and fried donuts (like at the Chinese buffet places…) for one baht per donut. A market was setting up, so around 5:30 we wandered through it and got some meat on a stick, that ended up being a horrible liver, then settled on soy milk and fruit.
We got a tuk-tuk to the actual boarder and went sat to wait to check in when it opened. A quick ride across the Mekong river and we were in Laos. We took a 30 minute ride to Vientiane, the capitol of Laos where we ate a proper meal for the first time since lunch the day before. We were all so sleep deprived from the past two nights on busses that we were a little out of it. We were headed for the town of Vang Vieng which has climbing, caving and tubing, so we jumped on another crowded, this time non air-con bus and went for another five hours. We were in the back row, so we jumped out the windows when the bus stopped to go to the bathroom because there were so many people sitting in the aisle.
We finally arrived and it was beautiful. Big rock all around, and in the middle of the mountains on a river. We checked into the same place that Dustin and Jared had used before which had hot water, a fan, two actual beds, a dresser, mirror, side table and a separate bathroom.
Total cost to me a night: 15000 kip = $1.50.
Cost of food: About $1-2 for a full meal
Beer Lao: 80 cents for 22 ounce
Motorbike for 24 hours: $3
Laos is Cheap!!
After dinner we went to the river to watch the sun go down but got there just as it dipped below the tree line. Tomorrow we are waking up, renting bikes, and going climbing all day. This place is so much less touristy than Thailand, and much more laid back. Everything closes at 11pm and starts early, which is great for us.
3am breakfast with (from L to R) Dustin, Jared, and Thad
Walking into Laos at 5am, yes that is the moon.
It was all worth it!