Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hoi An to Vientiane

After the peace and quiet of Halong Bay, the boisterous bustle of a quaint little seaside town was quite unexpected.
Hoi An had been the recipient of many plaudits from various sources. However the place did nothing for me at all. Maybe we caught it at the wrong time. Maybe all the charming people who our sources had met had vacated the town for the time we were there. Maybe we had the wrong vibe about us, which in turn made everyone we met a dickhead. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
There was a bright spot though; walking down a dusty street we heard "Hey Bro!" from the opposite side of the road. Music to the young fullas ears it were. So the obligatory Maori greeting was exchanged (eyebrows and head raised in greeting fashion) a couple of cheeky grins and a few words. Unfortunately we couldn't stop as we had to catch our bus, but 'twas a lovely moment.

Now as you have probably ascertained by this point, exiting a country smoothly is not our forte and so why would this time be any different? The bus was late but it had aircon. Of course as we were leaving the country there had to be a mini drama. No disappointment there! We had sent our passports away to the Lao consulate to get a visa. The travel company said no problem, they'll be back here in time for the bus. We went to the company in the morning just to check everything was ok. He told us that they would arrive at 5pm. We pointed out that the bus was at 2pm so that wasn't really a good thing. A phone call was made and an assurance said documents would be in our possession by 1340. Well appointed time came and went. Our bus arrived at 1430 (ish) as did our passports. So documents in hand and a "contract" not a ticket, we boarded the bus for Lao.

There was some confusion as to where the passengers for Vientian were supposed to be let off. Some passengers thought one thing, the drivers thought something else. It was a funny sight to see. Eventually we were reached the drop off point for the connecting bus. As our "contract" had been taken from us at an earlier point, you can imagine the apprehension with which we waited for the bus. Nothing like waiting in the middle of nowhere at 3 o'clock in the morning to bloster spirits either!! Never fear! The bus arrived as promised and was totally overloaded with god-knows-what in dubiously leaking cardboard boxes. But we were on our way! Lao here we come!

Arriving in Lao was a similar mini drama. We were hurtling along windy mountain roads (akin to the Kaimai's before upgrades) at a speed which seemed certain to plummet us to our explosive deaths, when we arrived quite abruptly at the Vietnam/Lao border. Which didn't open for another hour. And who's loos were all locked. Joy! Not a great hassle though, had a bit of a kip (nap), left Vietnam after paying the processing fee or "payment for stamp" as its officially called (USD1), walked down the hill and waited for our bus.

On the Lao side payment of the same official fee was made, we got our stamp and boarded the bus. The Lao countryside is quite beautiful from the border into the capital Vientian. Lots of thatched wooden houses, mountains and of course the rice fields. We stopped a few hours into Lao and were informed that this was our last scheduled stop. There were to be no more stops unless you specifically requested them. Well no one requested it but we did have quite a long stop. The tyre blew. The entire tread was shredded. Now considering the speed and way the driver was driving and that it was overloaded, it was no real surprise. Provided some good photo ops though! And alot of us took the time to visit the nearby bushes for relief. It was quite a sight to behold. Four skinny wee chaps trying their bestest to get these huge tyres off the bus, bouncing on the wheel wrench thingy. Replacing the blow out with the spare that looked equally dodgy was not as big a drama as I had expected... Sigh...
So on to Vientiane. No more dramas. Found a place to sleep easily. Had a shower. Ate dinner on the banks of the Mekong River looking across to Thailand. Bliss...

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