My 24-hour journey from Vang Vieng to Don Det in the 4000 Islands.
At 1:30 pm, a group (of ten or so) from the hostel in Vang Vieng, loaded onto a bus that we assumed was taking us to Vien Tiene, the first stop on our journey to Don Det in the 4000 Islands. After everyone chose their perfect seats & got comfortable, we drove .01 miles & were told to unpack everything & get off (eye roll).
We then sat at a travel agency to wait for a much bigger bus to take us to Vien Tiene. Traveling through Asia is just one big waiting game. Tip: Sit in the front row so you can put your feet up without bothering the people in front of you. Though, being in the front is prob the most dangerous because if the bus crashes you’ll be the one flying out the window (yes, this does happen). Maybe I should rethink my seat choice.
It was an easy 5-hour journey to Vien Tiene. We passed the time by playing the initial game. It’s where you think of a famous person, like Angelina Jolie & say AJ & people have to try & guess who it is. If they name a wrong name that has those initials, they get to ask a question to help narrow it down. It’s fun!
When we got to Viene Tiene, we quickly ate a baguette (sandwich’s sold on the street that were brought over when Laos was a French colony, which are actually quite tasty. You can read more about Laos, the forgotten country here).
Then, we were ushered onto a tiny bus to take us that took us to the bus station where we waited an hour before loading onto the sleeper bus. Snack time!
We had assigned seats through our tickets for the sleeper bus & mine was 1 or the 5 seats in a row on the back. The beds lining the walls were for two people & the row in the back was for 5, joy.
The lovely sleeper bus.
I was the first one in so luckily grabbed a spot by to the window, the two guys next to me were part of our group & then there were two Canadians on the other side of them. (Sigh of relief that I wasn’t sharing a bed with strangers). We all got comfortable, took a couple pics, popped a few Valiums & went to sleep.
This is us in the sleeper bus!
As I was dozing off, water began flowing onto me from the ceiling. I was immediately jerked awake along with the guy next to me. We wiped off the water, had some laughs about buses in Laos & went back to sleep assuming it was a one-time thing.
It was not a one-time thing.
10 mins later it happened again, only this time the water didn’t stop flowing. We started to stress a little even as we began to feel loopy from the Valium. I got up to go & scout out another seat that didn’t have a waterfall coming out from above it. Luckily, there were a couple empty beds at the front of the bus that I happily took. So it ended up just being me in a 2-person bed. Score. Though I use the term 2-person bed very loosely. Remember, these are 2-person beds for tiny Laotians.
Eventually, I fell into a night’s sleep filled with nightmares. I always seem to have nightmares when I take Valium to sleep.
I had several nightmares throughout the night & had to pull myself out of them. During the nightmare, I would become aware that I was dreaming & it felt like I had to literally pull my eyes open & force myself awake since the Valium was trying to force me asleep. At one point, I thought I pulled myself awake but was actually stuck in a different nightmare. I started to freak out & had to pull myself out of yet another layer of nightmare. Is this what inception feels like?
We arrived in Pakse at 6:30 am, everyone unloaded from the bus feeling very groggy. & surprise, we waited again. We sat around for an hour before a van came to pick us up from the bus station to bring us to the travel agency office. As we were loading into the bus, I noticed a couple empty beer cans in the front seat. Terrific. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen that in Asia either.
We sat at the travel office for about an hour, but no one complained because they had wifi, toilets & free coffee. We were waiting for a different bus driver to come, which we thought was great because the other guy looked drunk. It was not great because we got into a mini van with a driver in even worse shape. The couple of us at the front of the bus were a little nervous because the man was driving like a maniac. But I laughed it off as Asian driving, put headphones in & started reading.
I was suddenly startled by my friend in the front seat yelling at the bus driver to wake up. The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel!! The driver was literally nodding his head & dozing off. I jokingly offered to drive since I can drive manual. We asked him to pull over to take a break. We bought him two M15’s, which are really intense energy drinks. He happily chugged them & we got back into the us.
This is him stopping for a second time to get coffee.
I am happy to say that after chugging the energy drinks & coffee, the driver was more alert & he safely drove us to the docks in 4000 islands.
Once at the dock, we got into a small boat to take us to Don Det.
I may joke as I write this, or laugh at the time, but traveling through Asia can actually be really unsafe. It is rumored that the Tuk Tuk drivers & bus drivers take a drug called Yaba (meth & caffeine) to keep them awake on the road. There was recently a bus crash & a guy I had just met in Vang Vieng was thrown out the window & his arm was almost cut off. I think the best thing to do is be alert, watch the driver, wear your seat belt & hope for the best.