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Pakse: Laos Karaoke Disco…….On Wheels

From Vientiane, Bec and I were headed to the very south of Laos, a journey that would take somewhere close to 10 or 11 hours. Our hope was to take a bus during the day; all throughout this trip we’d been trying to avoid night buses where possible, and given that we were skipping over the middle part of the country, to at least be able to see the landscape would have been nice.

But, unfortunately, the only bus going during the day was a local bus (read: rundown, crappy school bus type) that took 14 hours, as opposed to the reasonably comfortable VIP overnight bus, which would take 9 hours to reach the southern town of Pakse. We booked tickets for the overnight bus, scheduled to leave at 8.30pm, and were told we’d be picked up at 7pm from our guesthouse. That’s 7pm Laos time though, folks, which meant we were eventually picked up at 7.45pm by a giant tuk-tuk, basically the back of a truck converted into a tuk-tuk with two long bench seats running along each side. As we were driven to the bus terminal, we stopped to pick up more travellers, each of them saying they’d been waiting since 7 or 7.30pm.

We arrived at the bus station. 3 of the VIP buses were parked next to one another, each taking the trip to Pakse, each leaving at 8.30pm, and each sporting the brightest of bright paint jobs. The bus we would eventually hop on was decked out in metallic greens and blues and aquas in an homage to The Little Mermaid. The mermaid herself (forgive me for I do not remember her name) adorned the back half of the bus, while on the rear of the bus, coloured lights flashed on and off, bright reds and greens and blues.

Though we only knew this was our bus after giving our tickets to some Laos guy who seemed to know what was going on in the commotion between two of the buses; a commotion where travellers looked confused, 3 or 4 Laos guys yelled back and forth, and backpacks were put on buses then taken off again and hauled around to another bus, only to be hauled back a few minutes later. Our man ran off with our tickets, waving to us not to worry,which said we had reserved seats 13 and 14. He disappeared into the crowd around another bus, and didn’t reappear for several minutes. Just as I began to get a little worried his head popped up in the commotion back at the Little Mermaid bus, and he gave us a smile. But, when we approached him, our tickets had disappeared. Somehow though, someone knew what was going on; another Laos guy with a whole book of tickets asked what number our seats were. We informed him 13 and 14, and he proceeded to write out new tickets for those seats, handed us those, and ushered us onto the Little Mermaid.

We climbed the stairs to the second level of the huge colourful bus, and were forced to shield our eyes from the bright lights as we found our seats. The seat numbers were lit up along the side of the overhead shelf, flourescent blues and greens lighting up behind the red numbers. Below the overhead shelf hung pink and pale blue curtains, each with little furry tassles hanging down every few inches, as though the bus had been decorated by your rave-going Grandma. Ahead, at the end of the aisle, was a tv screen. From it poured the sounds of Laos and Thai crooners; local pop-stars belting out some syrupy tunes. A 40-something guy in an ill-fitting suit and a shirt with wide lapels stood out the front of a gaggle of scantily clad young dancing girls, doing his best to look seductive. Well, they weren’t really dancing, more swaying, like stoned belly dancers.

Below the guy, across the bottom of the screen, were Laos words written in white, but being shaded blue from left to right as the guy sung.

Yep, this was a Laos karaoke disco, on wheels.

“Go on, sing along, I know you want to,” said a New Zealand guy we’d been chatting to on the way to the bus station. It was about an hour before the disco lights were turned down and the music stopped, mercifully allowing us to get a few hours sleep before we arrived in Pakse at 5.30am.

The scary thing was, this overnight bus ride was only the start of a very, very long day.

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2 Responses to “Pakse: Laos Karaoke Disco…….On Wheels”

  1. Bec Says:

    The mermaids name is Ariel! As if you didn’t know. 🙂

  2. Posted from Cambodia Cambodia
  3. chad huneycutt Says:

    thought about a trip to vietnam singing karaoke on wheels is a good ideal

  4. Posted from United States United States

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