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Welcome to Laos

Changsha to Kunming to Oudomxay, Laos

The hotel in Changsha had a TV which we turned on for the first time since leaving the US. I see serious stuff has been happening in the world, with a panel on CNN discussing Hillary’s pneumonia. I think it would be more interesting if she had a gangrenous bottom. The conversation would go something like this:

“So Hillary, did you lie when you said you had allergies and not a gangrenous bottom?”
“When did you first realize you had a gangrenous bottom and not allergies?”
“How many days rest did your doctor recommend for your gangrenous bottom?”
“What type of gangrenous bottom do you think you have?”
“Do you think having a gangrenous bottom makes you unfit to lead this country?”

What a scandal. I’m sure they’ll get to the bottom of it.

In our typical lack of wisdom we’d not realized until now it was not only quicker, but cheaper to travel by plane than fast rail and certainly faster than by bus. The bus trip to Kunming from Changsha was around 20 hours, and I jokingly said to Rick ‘we should fly’ thinking he’d shoot it down as not being part of the ‘experience’. He was all for checking out prices though and the 2 hour flight was only $65pp on the cheapest airline, Okay Airlines. (China’s ctrip.com way better than Travelocity, Expedia etc for China flight/hotel bookings).

When an airline is called ‘Okay Airlines’ you tend to think ‘Not Okay’ or ‘Does this mean the airline is just so-so, not good?’ or ‘Does this mean we have an okay chance of not crashing?’ But they were decent and even served lunch. Happy to report Okay Airlines food is just as mediocre as any other airline.

Caught taxi from Kunming airport directly to international bus station rather than stay overnight there. No names on buses so we ask which bus. “Blue bus, but wait, you cannot board yet”. We wait. Reconfirm, which bus? “Yellow bus”. Hmmm, the blue pill or the red pill. We get yelled at by the bus driver for something, but eventually success. 6:30pm we are off to Lao on the VIP sleeper bus. Sounds luxurious huh?

My first time in a sleeper bus, 3 bunks wide, 2 bunks high. Ideal for me because there is nothing I like better than being lazy, and being forced to lie down for 19 hours is perfect. No worries on the fact that it was like a coffin, bars on the sides to stop you falling out, broken air conditioning, and the top of the bus three inches from my face.

Leaving China was relatively painless, as well as getting into Lao. Lao gives visas at the border for $30US for Rick. Bit of discrimination against NZers – $35!

Actually let me backtrack. Painless from an immigration and customs perspective. The bus trip was extremely painful despite the excuse to do nothing. Firstly, the bus driver and bus driver’s buddy smoked incessantly. I contracted China Bus Cough that threatens to be with me the rest of the trip. Then, I was nodding off to sleep when a horrid caterwauling (maybe singing, maybe cats in a blender?) came through the speaker right above my head at 1,000 decibels. Then the dinging started. There were two types of dings. One deep ding every 9 seconds and one sharp ding every 14 seconds (yes, I counted). There was also a Casio watch alarm-like series of beeps every 25 seconds and a Siri-like driver’s GPS ‘turn right’ (or something) every 30 seconds. At some point the deep 9 second ding moved to 6 seconds, so at any one point there was some type of irritating, sleep defying noise. I’m reading this back to Rick and turns out he too was counting, and timed the dings on his watch. He states it was 7 seconds, not 6. Great, more to argue about. Now he’s arguing that we aren’t arguing.

Finally a rest stop, 2am, and a chance to get some shut-eye. But no! The snoring starts. The snoring is deafening! Sleeping on the bus, or anywhere in the China/Laos region is not possible. Now I am hoping the bus and caterwauling start again, at least to drown out the snoring. But no! The world record winning snorer is actually the bus driver. He continues his thundering slumber for three hours, then decides he’ll drive again. In all it took 14 hours to get to the border, 431 kilometers. Once at the border our destination was 100 kilometers away and I wanted to stay awake so we didn’t miss our town which wasn’t technically a stop. I figured it would take an hour or so, not taking into account Lao is a giant mountain range. The bus driver was very careful and it took five hours to go 100kms. That’s around 12 miles an hour.

We finally made it to Oudomxai, 19 hours total. $15 for a hotel, $15 for dinner, and $15 for a tiny tube of sunscreen. Hotel refuses to give us toilet paper, the only English word they knew is ‘no’; dinner so-so; and Rick discovers he’s bought sunscreen ‘guaranteed to make us 3 shades lighter’ which would make us the whitest people in Lao, except I think we already are.

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