|Our journey began when we decided to head to Laos from Chiang Mai. We were told there was a bus at 6.30am from Chiang Mai to the Thai border so we set off to the station nice and early. When we arrived we were told ‘sorry that bus wasn’t going today, we would have to wait until 8.30am’ Ah well we thought, that happens, we hadn’t had breakfast so we went and had some and got on the 8.30am bus. The bus ride from Chiang Mai to the border is 6.5 hours so we still had time to cross into Laos before it closed at 4.00pm.
The border crossing from Thailand to Laos at Chiang Kong is a river crossing which is always fun. We just caught the boat over got our visas at the border and we continued on to the bus station on the Laos side at Huay Xai. We arrived at the bus station for the 5.00pm overnight bus to Luang Prabang to be told that it was full that night. Ah well, lucky we weren’t in a hurry and just went back to town to stay the night with tickets for the 9.00am bus the next day.
Huay Xai was a very quiet town, you could count the foreigners we saw on 2 hands. We just had some dinner, a couple of Beer Lao’s and went to bed.
We arrived at the bus station nice and early at 8.15am the next morning. Our bags were loaded onto the bus, we went and got some breakfast and chilled until 9.00am. 9.30am and the bus still hadn’t left, 10.00am and it still hadn’t left so I went to find out what was going on. ‘Oh, the 9.00am bus isn’t going today I was told, this bus goes at 1.00pm’………… ‘Great’ we thought, ah well we were at the bus station already so we may as well just hang out there until 1.00pm.
We set off on time at 1.00pm for the proposed bus ride which we had been told by one person would take 8 hours, another 10 hours and another 12 hours! We were going for 12 hours, especially in Laos. We’d had some noodle soup for breakfast at 8.00am and just grabbed a bag of chips to tie us over until the first bus stop which is usually every hour. We set off for the first town which we knew was 170kms and would take about 5 hours, we got there basically smack on 5 hours but no stop for dinner…….. the next town was 100kms away and ended up taking 4 hours where we finally stopped for dinner. It was 10.00pm and we were kind of over it and tired so we just grabbed a bag of sticky rice to munch on.
While we were having our “dinner” we were approached by some other foreigners asking whether our bus was the bus to Luang Prabang. They were so relieved to hear that is was as they had set off at 9.00am that morning (from another town) and their bus had been involved in a small accident with a tuk tuk in which they had to sit at the scene for 2 hours then drove half an hour to this bus stop where the police took the driver away and they were told to wait until the police got back to question them….. that was at 2.00pm, it was now 10.00pm! and they had just been left at the station with no explaination their baggage still tied to the roof of their bus so they decided they were coming with us! None of the bus staff spoke any English so there was a little confusion about it all but at 11.00pm we set off again.
Going on the 12 hour time schedule we figured we were about 3-4 hours away which is what the lonely planet book said also and thought we’d get in about 3.00am.
Around 2.30am we stopped in the middle of no where. There was a line of trucks and buses sitting on the road where there was a huge mud puddle across the road. Our bus decided it was just going to go thru it and what happened?? Yes, we got bogged. So 2.30am, everyone off the bus trying to figure out what to do. There was no equiptment, between the 3 buses and 2 trucks there was one jack and one piece of rope that as soon as 5 guys tried pulling on it, it broke. Soon every man was covered from head to toe in mud trying to dig us out, put wood and rocks from the jungle under the tires, trying to discuss in totally different languages what they should do, more and more buses and trucks turned up, a few more people chipped in…… Finally at 6.30am after 4 hours we were unstuck! We all cheered, got back on the bus, calculating there was only about half an hour left until we arrived.
I nodded off for about an hour and woke up to see a sign to Luang Prabang, 70kms! We were still 70kms away, no one could believe it! So finally at 9.30am we arrived into Luang Prabang, the bus ride which was meant to take 12 hours turning into a 20 hour epic journey! But that’s the way it is in Laos, all part of the adventure!