Take a plane…. take a bus… take a plane…1 hour… take a bus…23 hours… take a plane…free peanuts…take a bus…onions piled into the walkways with very little leg room. What do you think we did? With much debate, we finally decided to take the hit on our budget and fly from Hanoi to Vientiane, Laos. We had heard stories from travellers that the bus, the obviously cheaper option, took anywhere from 20 to 30 hours in a bus where you had to sit up the entire time. Even the more hard core looking travellers told us we were better off taking a plane. With almost 100 hours of bus and train time logged in SE Asia and an anticipated 50 hours more to come, we felt we will have had experienced enough adventures on buses to go without this 24 hour ride. It also doesn’t help that the buses here are designed for an average height of 5 feet 6 inches. With John’s 6 feet 3 inch frame, it’s like cramming a size 10 foot into a size 7 shoe. We have no regrets about this decision.
The flight was wonderful with no onions in the aisles, as far as we could see, and we arrived in just under an hour of flight time. We immediately noticed a difference in Laos–things are much quieter here and people don’t use their horns as a form of communication. The loudest sound we hear in this country is the choir of roosters that start singing at 4:30am. Vientiane didn’t have much we were interested in seeing/doing but it was a nice place to bike around for the afternoon. We even got to cook our own Lao soup at our table overlooking the Mekong River for dinner. Not a bad way to kick off our time in Laos.
Our next bus trip came all too soon and one day after arriving in Laos we boarded a bus headed north for Luang Prabang. It’s amazing that in a 10 hour bus ride, we only went 200 kilometers (120 miles), but if you saw the curvy mountain roads, you would understand. We did enjoy seeing the countryside as we passed by. Villages are constructed right along the road and we watched people harvesting a certain plant used for making brooms, taking baths, cooking meals, taking care of their children, carrying water and bamboo, and just living their daily lives. This long drive landed us in Luang Prabang where we spent the next four days exploring and relaxing and meeting a new friend.