After hearing so many horror stories about transport in Southern Laos; Joe and I decided that we would leave Laos via aeoroplane- today we walked across the border into Cambodia (why do we ALWAYS do this kind of stuff?) We definitively decide on one thing, only to change our minds to the polar opposite merely 5 minutes later.
So let me forewarn you- the driving in Southern Laos is absolutely horrendous. The roads are in terrible condition, the drivers only know how to use the gas pedal and yes, people do die. A girl I met in Indonesia told me that her bus flipped over on the road and 3 people died, so it is something to seriously think about before hopping on a bus.Joe and I simply couldn’t afford to fly so we spent hours and hours researching the best and safest companies to travel with and in all honesty- it couldn’t have gone any smoother. From Vientiane, we paid 200,000 KIP (roughly £20 p/p) for a sleeper bus, a sitting bus and a boat ride to 4000 Islands with Sout Chai tour company. The sleeper bus is exactly what it says on the tin- a bus with double beds on it; so tough luck if you’re a lone traveller and get stuck with a random guy in bed with you. I managed to sleep the entire way; I shut my eyes in Vientiane 10 minutes after departure and when I opened them we were in Pakse- although I am like a cat and can sleep literally anywhere. There were of course the mandatory cafe shops- In Laos bus drivers earn commission by dropping their passengers off at certain stops along the way, meaning a 1 hour journey could take up to 5 to get there, really annoying but they all do it. The best way is to not buy anything, don’t get off the bus and they’ll usually take the hint and not stop for their usual 2 hour breaks.
As I’ve gotten the bus South of Vientiane I can’t tell you lovely people not to do it as that would make me hypocritical…BUT please, please, please do your research and only travel with certified travel tours and buses. Do not underestimate the danger in these roads, you only have to drive for around an hour and you’ll see enough wreckage’s on the roadside to prove my point. Having said that, the South of Laos-although nowhere near as nice as the North, is worth definitely worth visiting and don’t let the nightmare of transport put you off.
4000 Islands in my eyes was somewhere between a lovely version of Vang Vieng and a crappy version of Muong Ngoi. Don Det is a tiny island filled with sweet riverside guesthouses, bars, bicycles and 4000 small islands-apparently. A lot more developed it’s almost like what Muong Ngoi could look like in around 10 years (not that that’s a bad thing, I loved 4000 Islands). Yummy veg samosas are sold as street food, fluffy chicks wander the dirt roads and there is a really relaxed, laid back atmosphere here- which may be something to do with the abundance of weed here. Alike Vang Vieng; there are multiple bars here which sell ‘happy’ shakes, pizzas etc. Except in Don Det… it’s just weed and there is absolutely no opium in sight. Don Det is the place to be if you want to have a good time but don’t want to mix with the typical, drunken British people of Vang Vieng. Believe it or not, Joe and I even went to a Tubing Party. I know, I know I said I would NEVER go tubing…but our experience with Adam’s bar was really fun. For only 50,000 KIP (£5) we got a free Tshirt, boarded a small boat to a nearby River beach, received 2 free beers, chilled on the beach, listened to some cool music, met some lovely people, played around on a tube for a while and then got the boat back. It was NOTHING like the crazy, tomfoolery that goes on in Vang Vieng I can assure you, I would honestly recommend it.
The one thing that really gets on my wick about Laos is that you have to pay for absolutely EVERYTHING. in 4000 Islands its costs 35,000 KIP (£3.50) to cross a bridge…are you kidding me?! So no I didn’t pay another 35,000 KIP on top of that to see a waterfall and I didn’t shell out the extortionate prices to see the largest waterfall in SE Asia or go Dolphin watching, as for me the excursions weren’t worth the money. Instead, I ate really great food, wandered the island, chilled out in a few bars, went tubing, sat on the beach and managed to do something I never can- relax.
Laos is the sleepiest country I’ve ever been too and although I have LOVED spending 3 weeks here, boy am I ready to move on. Truth be told, I’m booooorrrreeeeeddddddddd. I’m fed up of lounging around and if I have to sit in another hammock again I’ll die. Okay, I’m being dramatic as per usual but I’m in need of some adventure; I need a brand, spanking new country to explore- preferably one with more than one road in its town centres and no more of these dusty, desert paths my lungs need a rest.