As soon as I sat down on our minibus, I knew that the journey would be like no other.
At a glance the journey from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng (northern Laos) looks like it should take a few hours. Google maps says it can be done in a car in two hours twenty-eight minutes…It took seven hours.
Lets twist again…
This route is one of the windiest I have ever come across, and that’s after being in the Cameron Highlands in Peninsular Malaysia and Pai in Northern Thailand. We veered around corner after corner after corner. The driver had his foot glued to the breaks as he dodged random potholes, rocketed over landslides, and manoeuvred the minibus over dirt tracks of red dust. I think we spent most of the journey over the other side of the road avoiding enormous crevices. God bless his eye sight.
The route took us higher and higher into the mountains as the light started to fade.
A Different Life
It was up in these mountains that I began to see what I thought I would see everywhere in Asia. The minibus sailed by tiny poverty-stricken villages that hung off the mountain’s edge. Young children carried babies, others played in the dirt outside the wooden shacks they call home. Doors lay wide open as people sat cross-legged on the ground. Others had curtains up to divide the one room into numerous bedrooms and living areas. Grey, concrete houses with no windows and doors, only holes where they should be, were lit up by a solo television screen. Shops were illuminated by single fluorescent light bulbs, casting an eerie glow on the produce.
Grown men stood in their underwear by the roadside as they washed in the town’s water source. Others crouched by taps at the side of the road over a gully to wash their clothes, dishes, hands, and bodies with only a hand torch to warn passersby of their presence. Pyramids of lemons lay underneath tents and fluorescent lights on deserted, dark roads.
It was like a different world to me. I felt as if we were intruding on these people’s lives as our minibus thundered through their remote villages.
At one point our driver pulled over to guzzle down an energy drink. It made us feel extremely safe! Obviously the concentration had taken it’s toll. The Russian guy beside him guided him the rest of the way to Vang Vieng on his iPad. We did actually make it, aside from us all thinking differently a few times along the way. And in true Asian fashion, (you always bump into the same people) we were dropped outside the restaurant that our friends were hanging out at. Score!