(It's not my birthday anymore; that was on the 15th. But I had a lot of blog posts scheduled in the meantime.)
If they exist, the travel fairies gave me a birthday present they knew I would appreciate (and I'm not being facetious.)
I had breakfast in Phonsavan with three Danish girls that I met at the Plain of Jars. They asked where I was going next, and I said "I'm taking a minibus Luang Prabang at 8:30" and they shared that they were leaving for Luang Prabang on a minibus at 8:30 too! What a silly assumption it would be if you thought we'd all be on the SAME minibus at 8:30 (I'm sure theirs was less of an adventure.)
After checking out from our guesthouse, we ventured to the travel place. The fella there said that the three Danish girls would go on one bus, but I would go with that guy over there. So I went with that guy. I briefly feared that I might be making this 8 hour journey in a songthaew, but his songthaew just took me down the street to the bus station.
I got in the minibus as instructed and waited. A nice lady came by and said, "you are the only one on this bus going to Luang Prabang, so they will take you half way and then you will get on another minibus and this bus will go to Vang Vieng." This will be an adventure!
I settled down with my book and waited. There was a little boy running in between the minibuses (I had the door open, since it was hot) and generally being a little boy and thus causing me irritation, but soon, soon I would be off!
The driver got into the bus, and made it a family outing as his wife, daughter, and the little boy got on too!
Mama is really nice, but she turned on Lao music really loud and would frequently burst into sing-along with it throughout the ride. Unfortunately, loud Lao music was disruptive for my attempts to read. Little girl was inoffensive except that twice on the windy road she had to vomit into a plastic bag and then throw it out the window. Little boy was my mortal enemy. He kept...moving and making noises and touching things. And I gave him dirty looks. We had fun.
Well we wound along mountain roads for a bit until Mama noticed that there was a bamboo shack by the side of the road with a woman selling... what I can only assume was firewood impregnated with fragrant resin? It looked like bacon. But she's a very discriminating buyer and purchased a bundle only after some conversation. There were four stands all visible from the first stand, about 100m apart. And they stopped at all of them. They only purchased from the first.
We drove some more, and Mama burst out in song and Little Boy threw random pieces of garbage out the window and Little Girl was quiet when she wasn't puking.
And four hours later we came to a crossroads. It was kind of an Old West town with a guesthouse and a market and a man in a uniform directing the traffic of buses and minibuses as they came from the three streets (I guess that means it's not a crossroads, really, it's a roundabout with three legs. Or something.) We all got out of the bus. Papa went and sat in the roundabout, and Mama said she was going to go find out which bus I needed.
I waited. I bought some banana fritters. They were soggy.
Mama came back and conferred with Papa and Papa got in the minibus and drove away, while Mama and I waited in the roundabout and she asked each passing bus if they were going to Luang Prabang. After a number of no's, she gave up and went and bought some long beans. Then she came back, and I got my bus! And my bus, the first bus passing through Podunk, Laos for Luang Prabang, was a super awesome VIP bus with more leg room than I've ever had in my LIFE and so few people that I got TWO SEATS. Where was this bus on that 16-hour trip from Rayong to Nong Khai?
I took this picture of my old mini-bus, from the plush seat of my new VIP bus. The lady in red appears to be buying soggy banana fritters.
I sat on my awesome new bus, and the music was quiet enough that I could drown it out with Donovan on my ipod (Wear Your Love Like Heaven!) and four hours later, I was at the Luang Prabang bus station!