Up and off early in the morning to catch our 8am VIP bus to Luang Prabang. VIP meant almost non-stop, reducing the ride to a mere 9 hours! Here’s a photo of our first stop; a quick break for the squat toilet and snackage.
At one of the markets I spotted these amazingly golden dried fish.
The first hour or two of the trip was mostly along flat plains and valley bottoms, but by this stop we’re starting to climb into the mountains. The karaoke videos on the monitor were finally finished and we were treated to a subdued selection of Laos pop music. The narrow paved road wound up, up, and down, down and around, around the jagged peaks and knife edged ridges.
The ride was fascinating. We passed through numerous small villages – homes clung to the edge of the road, one side on the road’s edge, the rest of the house suspended over the cliff face. Animals freely wandered; the bus would sound its horn and sometimes brake for cows, chickens, ducks and goats. School children biked and walked to their villages.
Most of the houses we passed were made of wood with thatched roofs although we also saw concrete structures and metal and tile roofs too.
Many of the hillsides showed evidence of logging and replanting. We passed forests of palm trees, bamboo and pampas grass waving in the breeze. Fortunately it was mostly an overcast day so we could keep the curtains drawn back to watch the passing scene. Mid-afternoon one of the conductors got up and started opening windows. It’s always hard to know when the locals are hot or cold. Some passengers on the bus had their mitts on. The fresh air flowing through the bus was a welcome relief though. We made one more stop: for a surprise lunch at a restaurant perched high overlooking huge valleys to other peaks. Our bus ticket included a coupon for lunch, something we’d been unaware of. It was a great break and the food was, as usual, delicious.
Finally, around sunset we came down out of the mountains and into a big valley. Soon we were at the Luang Prabang bus station where we caught a tuk tuk to our guesthouse, located in the town’s old quarter. We’d tried booking using the internet but eventually had our Vientiane hostess book us a guesthouse. It was a bit pricier than many ($35/night) but had a great location, was nicely finished, had a huge comfy bed and came with free breakfast.
After parking our gear we set off to give our legs a well-needed stretch. We quickly found a restaurant, had a meal and chatted with a couple at the next table. After dinner we wandered through the huge night market, just down from our guesthouse.
The market stretched for blocks. And there was no pressure! No one harassing us to buy buy buy. Vendors greeted us, smiled, gestured at their goods, but it was all very relaxed. After our long day on the bus we returned to our guesthouse, to get a good night’s sleep so we’d be fresh for whatever the next day held.