As you can see from our previous post, we successfully made it into Laos. What Cati didn’t talk about was the journey that took us from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang; 20 hours of public transport. Shudder.
Being from Britain, a trip involving more than a few hours using buses would be enough to make any of us quake in our boots, but this trip took an outstanding 20 hours to complete!
Our hostel kindly arranged the transport for us and at 10am, a minibus picked us up right outside. A few hours later, we arrived at the incredibly dramatic White Temple of Chiang Rai.
After a 15 minute break here, we set off for the border, and what is to be the most confusing land crossing ever built. Prior to our trip, we couldn’t find any information about the procedure crossing the ‘Friendship Bridge’ so we thought it would be a quick hop off the bus, stamp in your passort and Bob’s your uncle! You’re back on the bus and on your way. This was really, really not the case…
A quick stop at a guesthouse on the river to fill in our visa requirements and we were off to the border!
To be fair, the actual crossing was rather well built, with these marvellous blue diamond sculptures. With our luggage handed to us by the driver and quick wave as he drove off, we were suddenly abandoned in the middle of nowhere. Like a mondern day, backpacking version of Hansel and Gretel.
Following the breadcrumbs, we went through possibly the laziest passport control ever (I mean, they didn’t even check our bags), we got to the other side and found a small waiting area. After much confusion and some wild gesturing with some of the personnel after Cati’s rucksack was randomly thrown onto another bus, we found we had to take a shuttle bus across the actual Friendship Bridge.
Once again, my main issue with Southeast Asian transport reared its ugly head. According to our old friend Google, the average height in Southeast Asia is 5’4″. As such, legroom requirements are adjusted accordingly and I’m a solid foot of inflexibility above the average here. I crammed myself into one of the seats next to Cati and away we went.
We were only on this bus for about 15 minutes (my legs were pleased) and then we were left again at an identical looking building as the last stop! Turns out we had to go through passport control again!
Once we managed to get through, there was no bus ready to take us on the next leg of our journey. Just a few tuk-tuks and a scooter that was stolen by a child about 20 minutes later, never to be seen again.
We sat around with another giant blue diamond for about 90 minutes, until a tuk tuk driver approached us and motioned towards his tuk tuk. With at least another 12 hours to go, i was not ready or willing to take this pick up truck with a few seats installed on the back for the rest of the journey!
Thankfully it was only 20 minutes until we were loaded onto a much larger coach. But this coach, was no ordinary coach. This was a sleeper bus. No seats available at all, only what can be described as bunk beds.
This whole experience has shown how much I really need to take up some yoga. I’m about as flexible as a brick, and these beds could not have been any longer than 5 foot! And Cati and I had to share one of these berths! For at least 12 hours!
Luckily, a couple across the aisle got off at the first stop, and I literally army rolled into the now available space so I could attempt to stretch what felt like my permanently cramped legs. However, without me as buffer, this meant everytime the driver took a sharp turn (read as every slight bend or minor deviation from straight in the road), Cati rolled across half the bus into the aisle!
After a night of barely any sleep, we finally made it to Luang Prabang at approximately 6.30am. A solid 20 and a half hours after we set off from Chiang Mai. After a good hour wandering the streets trying to find our hostel, we checked in with the lovely Ms Kim who let us go straight to bed! If you ever decide to come here, I would highly recommend staying at Thavisouk Guesthouse!
After a quick snooze, it was time to see what Luang had to offer, and boy, did we have a good time here! 😁