Seriously, fuck travelling by bus in Laos.
It is 600km from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai…and it has taken us 40 hours. FORTY HOURS!! That’s long enough to build my own bus, find and extract my own oil for petrol AND drive to bloody Thailand!
40 hours. Most of which were spent thus:
To be fair, my suspicions were first aroused when I first caught sight of our bus:
The journey is advertised as taking 17 hours. Our bus, however, got stuck in the mud overnight and, by the time we reached the border that evening – 26 hours after we left – it had closed.
After turning down the tuk tuk driver’s polite offer to let us sleep on his patio, we managed to get a room in a not-too-extortionate guest house and were up the next morning for phase two, another 12 hours to Pai.
Despite the fact that you can get boats and buses directly from Pai to Luang Prabang, the services are not offered the other way around. Instead, we were told we had to go to Chaing Rai and change there. This also turned to be bullshit (as is 80% of all travel information in Laos), as there are literally no buses from Chiang Rai to Pai.
Thus we found ourselves on a 3 hour bus from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, where we changed for another 3 hour bus that got us to Pai a mere 30 hours late.
We did, however, discover something very valuable. By booking a Thai bus (Green Bus Company) at the actual bus station, instead of a tourist bus at a travel shop, we had the opposite experience to usual.
It was clean, spacious and left and arrived on time. We were treated like people rather than sheep, had to take endure exactly zero shitty tuk tuks driving in circles for hours, and were even given free Cremeos (cheap Oreos) and drinking water! What’s more, we got all this for £3 each – significantly cheaper than the standard cattle-drive of tourist bus travel in South East Asia.
Now THAT, friends, is a valuable lesson.
And now we are in Pai, which is essentially Heaven.
Photo credit for much of this to Vikki!