A minibus picked us up at our hotel in Hanoi at 5pm and dropped us at the bus station for our " 20 hour VIP sleeping bus" to Vientiane which eventually left 3.5 hours later. It was comfortable enough until it stopped 15 minutes later and another 10 locals were squeezed in sitting on the aisle. It's fairly common in these parts for the driver to make some extra cash by carrying passengers off the books, under the table or in this case on the floor.
We were lucky there was a toilet on the bus but to get to it you had to summon the conductor to unlock it and then tip toe around the bodies stretched out on the floor before you reached the piss puddle - yes that's right there was a good 2 inches of urine on the floor and the bus had a no shoe policy - just lovely!
We arrived at the border at 6am and waited an hour for it to open before crossing into Laos. At 5pm (24 hours after we set out) we finally arrived in Vientiane where we jumped in a pickup truck which would bring us to the centre via an ATM as nobody had local currency (Kips). After 3 ATMs refused to give money finally the fourth seemed to cooperate but then the unthinkable happened. The frikkin' machine swallowed my card and no cash came out - SHITE!!!!!!
I changed the last of my u$d which just enough for a room and a meal for the night. It would take another 24 hours and 3 trips (1 hour round trip) to the banks head office before I would retrieve my card and get refunded for a phantom withdrawal.
With no rest for the wicked we jumped on another 10 hour overnight bus north to Luang Prabang. Once again the locals sang the vomit national anthem all the way. I feel bad for them as I presume they are more prone to motion sickness but when we hit a bump and the over spill from a bucket landed on my ankle my tolerance level was being tested severely. A few unfortunate people who left their bags on the floor got a new coat of puke paint as the rivers of bile meandered along the floor of the bus.
Luang Prabang itself is a beautiful spot and we recovered from the puke extravaganza eventually but decided with conviction, we would fly to our next destination.
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