Friday, October 12, 2012

On the Road: Vientiane to Luang Prabang by Bus

After changing all my Thai money to Lao kip from the bank near  Pha That Luang, I hired a tuktuk to the Northern Bus terminal to catch an overnight bus to Luang Prabang. First tuk tuk charged me for 90,000Kip. Again, he showed me their standard rate card to prove it. But I cannot afford it. So I walked some more… and asked another tuk tuk driver. He first quoted me 70,000kip, I asked for 50. He lowered to 60…I insisted for 50…then tried to walked away… slowly… then he gave in. Hah! This trick is very effective sometimes.

The Northern Bus station is quite far from the city. Though, I felt guilty about haggling the price, I think it was just fair. Anyway, the normal fare for a public transport from the city centre to the terminal is only 15,000 to 20,000kip. I just didn’t know where to find them. Some backpackers told me it’s near Talat Sao mall.

Upon entering the terminal, I heard a very familiar song in the background that made freeze my feet, and raised my eyebrows while turning my head left and right, trying to locate where that song came from. Ah. It was from their huge flat screen television hanged on the wall. They were showing some boxing fights and the Philippine National Anthem was sung. It did make me smile for a moment.

I went straight to the counter and save myself a seat for a VIP sleeper bus to Luang Prabang, (150,000kip) which will depart at 8pm (last trip). It was only 4pm. Still have four more hours to kill. 

Express Ordinary bus – 110,000 (earliest bus leaves at 6am)
VIP sitting bus (bus with toilet and with food coupon) – 130,000kip  (last trip for VIP bus is 7pm..)

Travel time from Vientiane to Luang Prabang is about 10 - 12  hours, depending on your bus of choice. It wasn't really first choice, the sleeper bus. I was forced to buy one, because it will arrive in Luang Prabang at around 5am or 6am. I won’t be worrying about wandering the streets by those hours. If I took the earlier ones, it will arrive in the town by 3am or 4am, and I have nowhere to go… I didn’t book any accommodation yet. I’m just not confident arriving in LP that early.

So, I boringly waited and wasted my time in the terminal – so bored that I didn’t even have a photo of it, except for one. Tsk. Tsk.

Do not expect buses to Luang Prabang will leave the terminal on time. Give it at least an hour extra. I was starting to worry about mine. It will be a little late for me if I arrive in LP at around 8am. So minutes before the 730pm VIP bus leaves (original trip schedule is 7pm), I rushed to the counter to change my ticket from sleeper bus to VIP sitting bus. The attendant gave me back my 150,000 kip… and I bought 130,000 ticket for VIP sitting bus.

I actually thought I save few bucks after changing my tickets. Well, the VIP sitting bus isn’t really for VIPs.  It may look comfy outside, but you can barely feel the AC inside. Seriously, I was torturing myself for that another stupid decision. I was imagining how my life would have been if I took the sleeper bus.

After an hour, aircon-less, bumpy ride… the bus stopped. They were trying to fix the aircon. It worked…for some time… then it was gone…  So we stopped again… and all of a sudden they announced that we need to transfer to the sleeper bus because our bus broke down. Boom!

Minutes later, the sleeper bus came. We thought we will be transferring for free, because it wasn’t our fault that our VIP bus broke down. But we’re wrong. They asked for additional 20,000kip for the price of the sleeper bus. Some Western backpackers argued and insisted not to pay – but do they have a choice? They won’t be able to ride the sleeper bus, if they don’t pay 20,000kip. In the end, they handed down the money and hopped into the bus. Good thing I paid right away that I was able to secure one of the few seats available. Other foreign backpackers settled in the aisle in between sleeping seats. Whew!

Compared to the shaky ride in the VIP bus, the sleeper bus seemed to be more comfortable and less bumpy. Was it really the bus or the driver, I don’t know. At least for few hours, I was able to find some sleep and woke up the next morning in the beautiful town of Luang Prabang – the Jewel in Laos Crown.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post. Thanks for this wonderful guide. Me and my sister have been planning to go there but got no single idea on how to get there lol. So this post of yours is really a life saver. Keep it up.