Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bus travel to Phonsavan

I arrived at the Luang Prabang bus station and happy to be greeted by a traditional bus station!
There were signs for the buses and a queue to check-in. This sounds simple but it was so much easier than Vietnam were you are just picked-up and left in front of a shop. I always feel a little vulnerable on my first day using the public bus system in a new country. Do I get a ticket? Do I have an assigned seat? Where is the seat number listed on the seat? How do I know when to get off? Will I get left at the bathroom stop? Do I remove my shoes? How much puking will I witness? Will I puke because everyone else is puking? I know, simple things. It takes a day to get accustomed to the little things. I had heard horror stories about the buses in Laos so I did not know what to expect. I got checked in and dropped my bag off at the bus and then went to get some snacks for the 9 hour bus ride. The best part of SE Asia is that you can buy fruit everywhere! I got bananas, pineapple, sesame crackers and a water. I was ready!

As I sat waiting for the bus I noticed several things that made me smile.

A BMW Z4. I had so much fun with mine. (Yes Anne, I know it looked like a platypus but I loved it anyway!)

Laos is a conservative country. Women cover their knees and shoulders and tourists are expected to do the same. I found this sign on tuk-tuks, buses and restuarants.

But my favorite sight was a couple that wanted to take their motorbike with them on the trip. I had already noticed there were chickens, birds and a dog that were coming on the bus. Why not a motorbike? I watched as they pulled it up the side of the bus to strap it down on top. Sorry, I was not fast enough to get a picture of it going up the side.  

As we left the bus station, I noticed my air conditioned bus meant windows and door open to allow for a cool breeze. I pulled my window open and enjoyed the cool air. Ahhh! Better than nothing! We were off on the 9 hour ride through the northern Laos countryside. It was hilly with many switchbacks....yes, the locals got car sick! I have learned to put my headphones on and concentrate on music. The countryside was a beautiful distraction. I loved the green hills covered with trees and flowers. Laos countryside is smokier because this is the burning would be prettier without the smoke!

We would come to a village with 10-15 homes and everyone would wave to the bus. Children were bathing in the river or playing with friends. The older children walk from one village to another on their way to school. I learned a great way to pass a long bus trip is to listen to music and when I get bored then I switch to TED talks or comedy podcasts that I have downloaded. It makes the time pass quickly. I listened to some great talks about the Global One Classroom and World Peace & Other 4th Grade Accomplishments (documentary was made about this also). I highly recommend these for anyone interested in education.
Our bus driver was on a mission to get to Phonsavan. Going downhill was like a rollercoaster...we flew! He only stopped one time and we arrived to Phonsavan an hour early! I was happy to have some time to check into my hotel and arrange a visit to the Plain of Jars this morning. You will get an update of it soon! Peace and love to you all!

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