After just a few hours of sleep at a small guest house near the southern bus terminal in Vientiane, On and I were back on the road to Luang Prabang at 8:00am.
We’re on one of these so-called VIP buses which means we’ll be riding in a little more comfort than the bus we were on last night with half of the windshield gone and freezing all the way from north of Savannakhet. There are the complimentary bottles of water, snacks, and moist towelette to freshen up as well as lunch at a roadside restaurant four hours into the journey. There’s a television at the front of the bus, but it’s more Thai karaoke favorites. That’s okay. I’d rather be looking out the window at the countryside.
And what countryside it is.
The fertile rice paddies and small farms outside of Vientiane soon give way to gently rolling hills and then, as if some powerful forces of nature uprooted the terrain these rolling hills and foothills metamorphose into jagged towers of limestone. Vegetation clings to these rocky, craggy edifices. Clouds skirting across the tops of some of the taller ones create an ethereal misty visage.
I snap a few photos as the bus snakes its way up one of mountains hoping that at least one will turn out decent. One does.
Beautiful country. Too bad the bus doesn’t have time to stop for a few minutes for us to take some better photos. I envy the bicyclists and motorcyclists we pass along the way who can stop whenever they want to and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Along the way there are many small thatched-roof huts and similar structures hugging the side of the cliffs—no doubt the dwellings of the Hmong and other hill tribe people living up here. Small children, seemingly oblivious to the deep valleys below run between some of the dwellings laughing and yelling. A mother, with one breast bared nurses her child. A group of men come down from one of the mountain tops carrying stacks of wood on their backs. One child, standing along side of the road stares at our bus as it passes. What does this child think we he sees all the foreigners inside staring out?
The bus winds up another peak and down another. The bus trip is supposed to take eight hours. Maybe nine.
It’s probably better to fly up here for 60.00 plus dollars if you are short on time but the bus ride is definitely worth the chance to see all this natural beauty.
Our driver seems pretty skillful the way he handles some of the sharper curves. He takes them quite well and the ride is quite smooth for us.
It gets a little foggy at one point which reminds me of the Great Smoky Mountains.