Take the VIP bus…

…. or not.
We didn’t figure it out until the last bus ride but if you want the fast bus with AC don’t assume your hotel will book it. I didn’t realize that we could have walked 100 meters up the road to book the VIP bus at the local travel agent but we had already booked the local bus with staff at our hotel and we’re told we will have plenty of spare time to get from Don Khong to Pakse to catch our flight. Hotel staff was very proactive in updating us several times on the bus ETA as it moved from 7:30 to 8 then 8:30. We just had another cup of coffee and gazed out over the Mekong. The minibus showed at 9 and was packed full but they re-arranged baggage up top and found us some seats. Our packs went up top with live ducks and chickens in baskets headed to market.

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So far, the Lao people seem more reserved than Cambodians but usually have ready smiles and a friendly manner when you engage them even if the only words we have learned are Hello and Thanks.

Lots of talk and laughter on the bus. I think they all know each other since they seem to be from the populous side of the island where the bus originated.
Because we had plenty of time we didn’t stress about the slower speed and extra stops and we got to see more of how the Lao live than on the more expensive ‘private’ bus we had been on several days ago. As a bonus we got to see a woman buy a couple of live hens and bring them on the bus. Never see that on the 22 bus on El Camino Real back home!

We also rode one of the sketchier-looking ferries I had ever seen.
View getting on

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View after we drove off

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When we got to the ferry landing’ we saw a fairly modern, robust steel ferry with a bit of missing paint. We drove onto this wooden thing that I thought was an intermediate floating dock that would then load our bus on the ‘real’ ferry. Well, after a few minutes we started moving and we realized this WAS the ferry. Made it safely across and up to Pakse with just a few stops and no drama at all.

Just beyond the ferry crossing is a substantial bridge under construction that will obsolete the ferry in short order I imagine.

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I’ve read of a number of substantial projects in Laos. Hydro dam projects in Northern Laos and a high speed rail project that would link China through Luang Prabang all the way to Vientiane. More important than moving people apparently is the ability to send raw material from Laos to China. I get the impression Laos will change a lot over the next decade as there is a lot of construction everywhere we go.

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3 thoughts on “Take the VIP bus…

  1. Hey, Lockheed designed and sold that ferry to Laos – only $25M – including all documentation. Sounds like the trip is going well. One sad fact I thought I heard was Laos has the most land mines per area in the world – a vestige of the war. Hope that’s no longer true……

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    • Still true. Landmines an unexploded ordinance are still a problem in Laos and Cambodia killing and injuring people every year. Chilling to see how long this legacy lasts after the war is over.

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  2. Had a similar experience in Laos; the mixups and moment-too-late-realizations make it so much memorable. Love that first pic, definitely captures the rugged side of bus travel in Laos.

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