I was always planning on going to Laos…because that’s what you do in SE Asia…then I realized there wasn’t really much that interested me. However, I assumed that going by land to Chiang Mai (Thailand) would be cheaper, and sure why not add another country to the list.
What I didn’t include in my comparisson to the 100 dollar direct flight from Hanoi to BKK…$22 for the 20 hour bus journey into Laos. 45 for the visa (42 for being Canadian +2 for weekend +1 for the stamp). The most expensive overland travel in South East Asia. Getting ripped off by a dickhead tuk tuk driver and paying $40 CAD for the 2 minute tuk tuk because he threatened to tell the police I stole from him and took all my cash. The SHIT exchange rate in atms. The nuisance of malaria tablets. The outrageous price of activities. The 35 dollar Thai visa because land entries only get 15 days (vs 30 by air). The 45 dollar bus to Chiang Mai. My stolen camera memory cards…
ANYWAY I’m still glad I came. I’ve run in to tons of people, made lots of new quality friends, partied with locals, become realllllly good at bowling (the only thing open past the 11:30 curfew in LP and Vientiane), and gotten my fix of baguettes and pastry —god bless the french.
The bus from Hanoi to Laos-NOT THAT BAD. As tourists we were all thrown in the shitty back seats (which youroll around in and can’t adjust your incline…right beside the toilet). But we were all fit enough, we all slept, locals didn’t eat durian on board, and we actually arrived 3 hours early!
Minibus from VV-LP also not that bad. Everyone was all terrified about the roads…yes, they’re dirt, but the cliffs you rip around through the Canadian Rockies are MUCH more terrifying. Plus, the scenery is incredible! Don’t take the night route! It’s a bit hard to sleep on the turns anyway.
Tubing in VV…didn’t go. Instead ate french pastries and played rummy with my new English friends for 5 hours watching the monsoon…
Vientiane was a totally alright place. Actually besides the awesome people in VV it would be my favourite. You can get street food for 5000 kip which is double elsewhere, it is clean, locals are nice, it is cheap, totally laid back. Everyone claimed to be ‘bored’ but as I told a new friend of mine in VV I think boredom also includes a certain lack of social competence. If you can’t find a way to occupy yourself and be productive without your environment and others constantly stimulating you, maybe its you not the place?
Getting to Thailand: I’m taking a bus for 40USD directly to Chiang Mai…will let you all lknow how that goes seeing as how there is a plethora of info on the reverse route and nothing about leaving laos. The prices quoted here in LP are double everything in Lonely Planet for bus and slow boat. I’m also preparing a post about visas and border crossings through SE Asia. It will only be valid for a couple months, but I’ll gather the info anyway.
Dorm etiquette: just because the bars on the top bunk surround your mattress doesnt mean you can do full laundry and hang it all around my bottom bunk creating a jungle of panties to crawl through when I go to bed. Know your weird heavy metal screamer music isn’t mainstream and don’t have it as your volume 10 ringtone you sing along to instead of turn off at 6am. Don’t put the inside slider lock on if everyone isnt in the room. In places where mosquitoes are prevalent, shut the fucking window. Do not smoke in the ensuite. One fan means rotating…not aimed at you only all night. Conversations in the room take priority over skyping mom…if you’re annoyed that we’re talking, go elsewhere. You’re trying local food…great me too…I don’t however want to wake up to the local bugs that your un-disposed of garbage is attracting wtih it’s dried fish scent. Consider the possibility that others are comfortable with silence. If you need A tylenol I’m more than happy to help you out, however use your judgement…if you’ve had said headache for a week, go pay 3 dollars and buy your own. I also will NOT ever share my 5 dollar a tablet anti malarials with anyone. No guy in asia cares about how you look…ladyboys are not your competition, and the inch think face you put on will last about 30 seconds in the humidity and heat, that’s bonus advice really…I quite like going out and getting more attention that girls that spent hours getting dolled up.
Anyway, I feel like travellers in Laos have been abnormally young, naive to anyone but themselves, and judgemental about partying (or lack there of). I also met some seriously legit people…but it has been extreme, there hasn’t been the usual middle ground people I can tolerate but have no interest in. Its all people I was sad or elated to leave behind.