Sunday, August 15, 2010

In Transit: Laos - Tha Khek to Don Det via Pakse

I lived a charmed life, I know.

After my super long and wonderful trip to Kong Lor I was exhausted but time was still of the essence and I had to get on the road the next morning. That said, I still ran a bit lazy all morning. I took my sweet time getting out of bed, eating breakfast and repacking all my freshly laundered clothing. (Oh my goodness, I love cheap laundry service.)
I walked out to the main road and hopped into the back of a tuk-tuk with three adorable little girls who were simply beside themselves that a falang was sharing a ride with them. They stared and giggled and poked at my stuff. It was cute.

The bus system here is a little weird but at the same time very easy. You tell someone where you want to go, they take your money and your bag and you get on the bus. Then you don't get off again until someone tells you to (or when everyone else does).

The buses, however, are almost definitely hand-me-downs from who-knows-what other slightly more well off countries that have higher standards of safety. They leak and creak and fold like cardboard boxes in a monsoon. And what luck, it's monsoon season!

At one point everyone on the way to Pakse everyone in the back of the bus (including myself) moved up a few rows because there was water pouring in from all sides during a sudden torrential downpour.

The other interesting thing about bus trips is they stop on the side of the road for pee breaks. I mentioned this before but I still just can't get over it. 

Either way, Pakse wasn't my final destination but it was as far as I was getting that day so I opted to find a comfy dorm room and some food. I had what was probably the best chicken tikka masala of my life and then called my mom. 

We talked for an hour which I'm sure comforted her. Honestly, it comforted me a bit too. After two and half weeks of traveling I'm getting a bit tired of being alone. 

After a great night's sleep I got one of the more authentic days of my trip in Laos. It's a good thing I was well rested.

I had to work out how much money I would need the entire time on Don Det and up until getting to Siem Reap (i.e. through the border crossing where they'll obviously rip me off again) and had to take out enough cash to make it that whole time. There would be no more ATMs after leaving Pakse until reaching Siem Reap. 

I hate having that much money on me but there was really nothing I could do about it. 

After getting myself situated I got in a tuk-tuk to go the 8 km to the bus station. I'm not sure why, but that 8 km took 25 minutes! (What was that about Laos things just being slower in this country?)

At the bus station I said I wanted to go to Don Det and a man took my bag and put it on top of a "bus." It was actually a pick-up truck with benches in the back for seating and a hardcover on top to put cargo on. This would be a lovely four-hour ride. But, hey, why am I complaining? It only cost like $4USD.

I crammed into the back of the truck with two Dutch girls, what seemed like a trillion Laos people (with their children crammed on the floor in between everyone's legs) and a ton of wholesale rice and vegetables we would apparently be dropping off down the road. 

I spoke English with the Dutch girls for most of the trip while all the Laos people listened in on our conversation. It was slightly awkward. The man sitting next to me kept offering me cigarettes and Laos-Laos (think Soju but more disgusting).

But overall it was a pleasant (and dusty) ride from Paksa to Ban Nakasong. By the end of the trip I was absolutely grimey and wanted nothing but to take twelve showers. 

Ban Nakasong and the only transportation to Don Det.

Instead, I got into a long-tail boat to head across the Mekong to one of the most chill islands ever where I would spend an hour searching for the perfect riverside bungalow.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have any thoughts on this post? Let me hear it!