When you take a VIP bus or similar bus for long distances in Laos (and other Southeast Asian countries) there’s usually a television mounted at the front of the bus where TV programs and videos/DVD’s are shown.


If you’re lucky whoever is in charge of entertainment for the bus might play a decent movie (unfortunately it is probably going to be dubbed in Thai); on the other hand, you might get stuck having to endure some Thai Karaoke Pop favorites like the ones playing on the bus On and I took from Vientiane to Paksong that feature scantily-clad models with heaving breasts bouncing up and down while they rode on horses, scooters, and bicycles to the bouncy pop back beat.


On the return bus from Paksong to Vientiane this past February, though there would be no bouncing boobs but instead a Charlie Chaplin movie was played. Interestingly, some Thai dialogue had been dubbed into the silent film that was quite surreal. I guess someone must have thought that Charlie’s slapstick antics were lost in translation and needed to have him speaking Thai. Nonetheless, I could at least enjoy the film if I tried to shut out the Thai dialogue.


The Chaplin movie was followed by three episodes of that 60’s war drama Combat. I wonder if whoever was in charge of entertainment on this bus tried to choose something that would be interesting to the only foreigner on board. If that were the case, it was kind of cool watching these episodes of Combat even though the dialogue had been dubbed into Thai. If I thought it was weird for Charlie Chaplin to be speaking Thai, it was weirder hearing Vic Morrow speak it.


Even more interesting was that they had originally been aired in Japan, judging from all the Japanese language at the beginning of the tape, and more than likely pirated for the Thai market and eventually ending up in Laos.


I could follow some of the story with what Thai I do know, but fortunately there was more fighting than talking. Maybe it was all the shooting and explosions in the episodes of Combat that caused the right half of the windshield on the bus to break.


About an hour after the bus had left Savannakhet, that part of the windshield just shattered. I can’t remember if the windshield had already been cracked that caused it to shatter the way that it did. Fortunately no one was hurt and fortunately when the windshield did break, not much glass went flying through the air.


However, the bus would not stop to have the windshield fixed or even boarded up. And we would not be getting on a different bus either. Instead the bus would keep on driving north to Vientiane with the cold wind rushing in freezing all of us huddling in our seats to keep warm.