TonyFats in Asia 2006-07 travel blog

Our Bus

Lunch Stop

Slash and burn

Laos Village

Threshing what looks like millet

Laos village

Army Guard and our broken bus. (We were told they can't afford...

On lookers

Towing

Coasting but no start

Choose your bike

Our other guard

Haming it up.

Where we were at time of breakdown.


The bus to Luang Prabang left around 8:00 am for what should have been about an eight hour journey. Smart looking bus, see the pictures. Not so good in the reliability department. First 3 or 4 hours was fine, then we stopped and the traveling patch up man, got out and was laying under the bus tying up something with baling wire. We were off again in about 15 minutes. We stopped at a restaurant for a lunch break and here again Mr. Patch-up was again doing his baling wire act. Then he got out a wheel wrench and a long bar and went around tightening all of the wheel nuts. I watched as he turned each one at least half a turn. I will admit I was not instilled with confidence in our VIP bus. It was here that I noticed that an armed guard with an AK47 had been traveling on the bus with us. Again not the most comforting sight. I asked if I could take his picture, he declined. I obeyed. We started out again after about an hour. I began to notice armed men stationed at intervals of a couple of kilometers along the road. It was quite mountainous and they seemed to placed at spots where the bus would have to slow down to negotiate a curve or travel up a steep incline. At first I wondered who they were as they wore no uniform. We traveled on with no incidents other than a few wire tying stops. About 30 kilometers from Luang Prabang in a small village, we stopped again. This time things looked a little more serious. Mr. Patch-up was really going at it, laying under the bus with bits and pieces of the engine strewn around on the road. He emerged, looking like a coal miner. They tried to start the bus, but the batteries could hardly turn the engine over. Mr. Patch-up had the idea of rigging the batteries to double the voltage, but all that happened was each time they turned the key to start the engine a shower of sparks flew out of the engine compartment. Just then one of the other VIP busses came along, they stopped and all the drivers and helpers were standing around talking and scratching their heads. They finally decided to tow our bus back up the hill we had coasted down when the bus broke down, let it coast back down the hill and jump start it. They failed, no go. While all this activity was going on our armed guard stood diligently looking up and down the road. Another armed man came up and they had a conversation and he then walked back up the road and also stood on guard. Not comforting! I think the people in the village were enjoying the spectacle, and of course the unexpected cash flow from purchases of the passengers. They again towed the bus back up the hill, let it go, and this time it started. We piled back on to the bus and headed at a great pace to Luang Prabang. We arrived about an hour and one half late, by this time it was quite dark. I think this is the reason the driver traveled at break neck speeds so that we would not be traveling after dark. We learned later from Kathy that the road we had traveled was prone to bandit activity. Later while talking some other people we learned that there was actually a travel advisory out warning people to be cautious when traveling this stretch of road. The armed men were actually soldiers guarding the road. I'm not sure how effective they would have been in stopping a robbery, or what the armed guard on our bus could do to protect us from a bunch of villains, but we were not robbed! It doesn't bear thinking about. Oh well, too late to worry about it now.



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