A love poem to a Laotian BUS ride

THE BUS IN LAOS :  a joyride

(August 2002)

Travelling through Asia is an experience and not just about sights and taking the public bus in Laos can be quite an attack on the senses.

At 7:30 am, half an hour early, I grabbed the last seat on the bus and waited for the bus No.1 to depart from Vientienne to Vang Vieng. But I watched in horror, as I nd more and more people ling into the already FULL bus.A bus, which can t 44, ended up tting in 70-80 people, or about seven to eight people per row in a four seater per row bus.

And that, plus one small green parrot, is only the livestock count. The GOODS — vegetables, fruit, bicycle, biscuits, bags, clothes, books, plants and my backpack lled up whatever space was left — at the bottom of the bus and in between the humans.

The driver made his best attempt to accommodate everyone and everything into whatever space was in the bus and then in a mind-boggling feat, even tried to seat everyone.

I felt a little guilty to ght for space with these poor local folks. But the guilt was shortlived, as I soon had to give up my seat just half an hour into the journey, when the little girl next to me — sitting on a plank placed between the seats on two sides — started puking. I offered to take her place in the center of the bus from that moment on.

With so many things and so many people on board, bus No.1 headed to Kasi (with drop-off in Vang Vieng) and felt like a major journey.

Nevermind that it rides twice a day or more I think.

Maybe, it was the easy listening windpipe Laotian music pumping throughout the journey or the talkative passengers, snacking away on peanuts, sticky rice and chicken on a stick.

There was denitely a party in there — if you can nd the space to dance.

And dance we did after awhile, as the bus swung from side to side, as it spiraled up and down the mountain.

The bus got so rough that the little girl next to me threw up some more.

Two hours later, the bus made an abrupt stop at the side of the road. Everyone marched out like robots or an attacking army released from the truck.

All spread out to look for a special spot among the bushes to … release themselves.

It was the journey’s halfway break.

And then back to road, zooming through padi elds, villages, mountain ranges, a waterfall and a lake before I, the only foreigner on the bus, get unceremoniously kicked out from the crowded bus onto the streets of Vang Vieng.

And the price for this 4-hours exciting, but back-breaking ride ?!

6,000 kip or about 60 U.S. cents.