Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It might have been the most spectacular coach trip we have ever taken, but it won't be the views we remember the trip for as our 6 hour coach trip turned into a 10 hour drama.

The spectacular but scary trip through the mountains was reminiscent of the TV programme 'Ice Road Truckers - Deadliest Roads' where they drive along the Indian mountains roads. The shear drops off the side of the mountains were equally terrifying as those on the programme but luckily the road wasn't so busy so we weren't forced to drive on the edge... very often but still too much for comfort!

We were picked up from the hotel at 10:30 in a beaten up old bus. As we boarded the bus we noticed the badly smashed windscreen and as we sat down we were both hoping that this was just a shuttle bus to the VIP bus. Luckily it was and as we entered the bus station the VIP bus looked like it lived up to its name and we were relieved to be getting off the shuttle bus. However on closer inspection we started to think VIP must mean something else in Asia. It looked like it had been in some sort of accident with countless smashed windows, dents and scratches it would not be allowed on the road back in the UK.

Anyway we loaded up our luggage jumped on the bus and set off shortly after 11am. All seemed well apart from the driver struggling to find first gear which we soon realised was vital for the long downhill descents through the mountains. We had to resort to slowing to a walking pace at the brow of the hills before finding first gear.

All was going well until about half an hour after the lunch stop when we came to a grinding halt on a steep incline. We expected the driver to find first gear and we would be on our way but when the driver and his 2 mates jumped out we noticed something was wrong. One guy headed up the embankment to find a large rock to brick the rear wheels and then the driver promptly switched off the engine.

After a few minutes Ross was the first to venture of the bus and saw the driver and his mates looking at the engine. The drivers then turned into mechanics pulling the engine apart. After an hour we stopped checking on progress as every time we took a peek the engine was in more pieces and the driver and his mates looked more and more confused about how to put it all back together again!

Another bus stopped to help, but after much head scratching he left us to get on with it and drove off with only a handful of people on his bus. Very annoying as there is only one big town in the direction we were heading so it was obvious the bus was heading to Luang Prabang too.

We thought we were getting somewhere when one of the driver's mates hailed down a passing motorbike we assumed he was going for help. But then he grabbed his luggage jumped on the back of the bike and was off never to be seen again!

After about an hour and a half we got the news we were all waiting for but dreading. Translated from Lao to French to English the message from the back of bus was:

'At least another 3 hours... they had found the dodgy part but need to head back to the last village to get it fixed'

Shortly afterwards some locals girls turned up from nowhere and proceeded to start to sell bags and bracelets. Now we wouldn't normally fall for such things we often refer to as tack but give credit where it's due these girls where entrepreneurs! After selling us a 'lucky bracelet' see what we mean good sales people, we sat around waiting for the good luck to start!

We didn't have to wait too long for the luck to start, maybe that was the best 5,000kip we ever spent! Only 20 minutes later a bus turned up and like Usain Bolt we were the first off the blocks and sprinted to the back of the bus and started to haggle with the driver. He claimed he had 6 seats available and started to rummage in his pocket pulling out a wad of cash to show us what we needed to pay. He pulled out 70,000kip and not trying to look like he could have charged us more we quickly agreed to pay.

The second driver wasn't quite as laid back as the driver of the first bus but luckily nothing like the driver we had from Vientiane to Vang Vieng as we don't think our nerves would have coped. He drove sensibly until dusk when he appeared to want to be off the mountains before dark. Noticeable as the sun went down so did his right foot. Throwing the coach round the corners we soon stopped looking down. Neither of us suffer from motion sickness but by the time we arrived in Luang Prabang we were both feeling a little worse for wear.

We finally arrived at 20:30 after a 10 hour trek. The advertised journey time was just 6 hours. But we won't complain as we arrived safely and we could easily still be on the other bus stuck on the hill.

We arrived just after a massive rain storm one of the first of the year as the rainny reason doesn't start until May. It was a bit strange to see rain (not that we have missed it!) but after 3 months away we have only had one day of proper rain so far.

© 2014-2021 All rights reserved.
All images and logo's are licenced. Please contact us before copying any content or linking to our blog - Thanks! :-)