We catch the tuk tuk to the bus yard outside of town, where we jump on the bus that will take us north through Laos, to Luang Prabang. There are a lot of people wanting to catch this bus. Tomorrow is the start of the Laos New Year (Pii Mai) celebrations, and locals and travellers are on the move. After some people are moved to a minibus we get going.
After only an hour we stop at a small town. We jump off for refreshments. When we jump on there are a line of locals wanting to catch the bus to Luang Prabang. As if by magic a stack of plastic chairs appear and are placed in the aisle of the bus, the locals sit in the chairs, but they cram more and more in the now packed aisle. As the last of the extra passengers try to fit on a old French couple at the front of the bus start to protest, saying that the bus is already crowded, and is now unsafe. They saw they have paid $6 for this VIP bus ride, and yet more people are being packed on. The guy organising listens for 10 seconds, before shouting something in Laos at them and getting back to packing in the extra passengers. Although this is a bit unsafe, this is probably the busiest time of year in Laos for people migration, so I thinks its part of traveling here.
We get going again, passing through steep terrain, often with the road hugging the hillside. We pass many remote villages and even lonesome houses, perched right on the roadside, and although noisy these houses have amazing views. The scenery here is the closest I have seen to that of Nepal, and Laos is the country most similar to Nepal that I have visited, and yet there are still lots of subtle differences. I think Laos is more developed than Nepal, despite being one of the World’s least developed countries.
At exactly 5pm the bus arrives at Luang Prabang. We catch a tuk tuk into town. We had been a little concerned about finding a place to stay, as the New Year celebrations had already started. But, we find a place fairly quickly. It’s more expensive than we would normally pay (US$18), but it is a beautiful room, perhaps the nicest we have stayed in on our entire trip.
We grab a drink overlooking the Mekong river. We are fascinated watching the boats run about on the river. The sun sets and we think about our journey so far, and how lucky we are to have the privilege of being able to travel to such amazing countries, and seeing such glorious sights.