The original plan was to leave Vientiane for a couple of days and head on down to Sala Hinboun - a lovely little village with beautiful surrounding scenery.
This is not quite what happened.
I had been informed that buses run from 8am so I got to the bus station at 8.30am only to be told that the bus I needed to get left at 5am, 6am and 7am. So I needed to decide - stay in Vientiane or be adventurous and try and get to Hinboun. I took the adventurous route.
After conferring and pointing to places on a map I eventually discovered I could get a different bus to Savannaket, which passed through Hinboun. I couldn't quite believe my luck, as I had also been told a more complicated way to get there which involved getting off one bus in the middle of nowhere, and possibly finding another bus or a tuk-tuk of some sort, or possibly having to stay the night in a small village enroute and then trying to get to Hinboun the following morning.
So, off I went, very happy with the situation, and got on the bus. I've never seen anything like it, and I've lived in Asia a long time - to walk down the aisle, I had to climb over and on bags of food almost waist-high trying not to fall on top of a monk. No mean feat!
We left at 9am, stopped at 9.10 for vendors to try and climb through the bus selling baguettes and dried meat with sticky rice. At 10 we stopped again by the side of the road for a toilet stop. At 10.30 we had more vendors get on selling food. You get the picture - not exactly an express bus!!!
I had been told it would take about 5-6 hours to get to Hinboun. Just over 6 hours later I was dropped off on the side of the road. Locals were gathered around some food stalls and there was a tuk-tuk. I was able to gather that Hinboun was 9.2km down the road, and after failing miserably at securing a ride to the town, off I set down a dirt road. After 45 minutes I had had enough, and had only walked maybe 2kms, so as soon as I came to the first house, I asked a woman out the front if she could take me on her bike using hand gestures.
So off we went, and arrived in Hinboun. Except it wasn't the Hinboun I should have been in - I was 135kms in the wrong direction, and thus realised I was in the middle of nowhere. Then everything started making sense to me - why all the locals seemed confused as to why I would want to go to this Hinboun, and repeatedly kept asking me why. Even though we couldn't speak the same language, I knew what they meant. So back on the bike we got, and I was taken back to the main road. Not before I was taken on the scenic route through the village, along a very bumpy road, stopping a few times, for me to be paraded for all the villagers - apparently it was the funniest thing to happen there in a long time. The woman driving me would stop outside a house, shout, "blah blah blah farang (foreigner) Hinboun", and a lot of laughter would ensue.
Back at the main road I establish that there is, "sometimes, tomorrow morning, tonight, this morning" buses that will come on the road in the direction I need to go in. The lady left me alone on the side of the road, and as I stood there thinking I might very well end up in a villager's house for the night, a bus came approached. I ran out into the middle of the road to flag it down, nearly lying down to make sure they would stop for me.
Guess where it was headed - that's right, Vientiane. I asked about Hinboun, but no, just Vientiane. So another stimulating bus journey, this time complete with a blaring stereo system with dodgy Laos music. In all fairness we did shave 1/2 an hour off the morning's journey - we were absolutely flying down that road I tell you.
What I achieved that day in Laos - I spent 11 1/2 hours on a bus, and 15 1/2 hours on the road, ending up at the same location. To add to all that excitement, I couldn't find a hotel room at 11.30pm…
Was it adventurous? Well, yes, I suppose so. Would I do it again? Not any time soon - give me a few months to recover first!
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