BootsnAll Travel Network

point A to point B

the variety of ways to travel in southeast asia are enough to give even the seasoned traveler a huge headache! but sometimes figuring out the best way to get from point A to point B can be fun! and sometimes it changes your entire itinerary!

i arrived in the capital of laos, vientiane, a few days ago after a 3-hour ride on a so called “VIP” bus from vang vieng that felt more like a sauna on wheels. there were only tourists/backpackers crammed into the bus, leading me to believe we’d all been ripped off. (if you see NO locals on the transport option you’ve chosen, that’s a serious red flag in terms of how much you paid!) and besides being relatively expensive (i guess i can’t really call $6 expensive, can i?) it was just sooo hot. they said it had A/C but i don’t think it even worked. luckily i only had a duffel bag with me – i’ve been traveling with just a small bag for the last 6 weeks, leaving my suitcase in bangkok – so i was able to keep it on the ground near my seat. the luggage holds underneath the bus were crammed to capacity with huge backpacks and occasionally a few suitcases. there were STILL more packs crammed into the aisles of the bus so that to get out at our rest stop, i had to climb over about 7 or 8 of them just to get to the front of the bus!

instead of being dropped off at the bus station, we were plopped in the middle of town, and for once there was no swarm of tuk tuk drivers trying to get you to their guesthouse. i shrugged my shoulders, and consulted the lonely planet guide and made my way to a guesthouse that sounded like it had a good location.

after securing a room, my first order of business was to arrange my tourist visa for vietnam, since they take anywhere from 1-3 days. i stopped in at a travel agency and got a few price quotes for a bus ($80US) vs. flight ($130US) to hanoi. since i’m planning to be in siam reap, cambodia on the 25th to meet up with jess and eric, squeezing in a 30 hour bus ride to hanoi would have eaten valuable time out of my plans to actually SEE hanoi before heading south, and i wasn’t too keen on spending 30 hours on a bus. the buses here are definitely not as comfortable as those in thailand, and i don’t even care for THOSE. so eventually i decided on a flight and went to research prices on the internet to see if i could get a better deal.

this lead me to a whole different dillema! in researching my options for the vietnam to cambodia trip i was planning, i realized that it was probably easier and cheaper for me to just head south in laos to cambodia, meet up with jess, THEN do vietnam later. whew, a total reversal of what i was thinking! so i headed back to the travel agency and booked an overnight bus to pakse in southern laos, instead. i’m skeptical of the bus that i’ll be taking – i won’t believe the pictures til i see it with my own eyes. the picture they showed me at the travel agency had what looked like beds and pillows in the bus! this, i gotta see! so cross your fingers for me, cause i’ll be on it tomorrow night.

just a few other ways we’ve traveled on our trip:
(kira has the full list…)

tuk-tuk – hold onto your seats and plug your ears! away we go!
elephant – this had to be the best way to go =)
taxi – don’t close the door til they turn the meter on, and always have your destination written in thai, and phone number to the hotel if possible.
overnight bus – in thailand, these are somewhat comfortable, with reclining seats and meals included (i still don’t like them though!)
overnight train – my favorite way to go. you can sit and face each other to eat, chat, play cards, whatever, and at night they fold down bunk beds so you can lay flat. fun!
slow boat – although somewhat uncomfortable, this was definitely the most scenic journey.
longtail boat – sort of like tuk-tuk on the water, not good for long trips if you get seasick (like me!)
saengtaw – two rows of benches in the back of a pick-up. no-frills, but cheap!
minibus – usually they fit about 10 people and its somewhat comfortable depending on the condition of the road you’re traveling. usually with a/c too, so that helps!
motorcycle taxi – the women here ride side-saddle with their legs over one side of these, perched delicately even as they weave in and out of traffic! i don’t know how they do it.

and my favorite, and most reliable way to get around, is always my own two feet. yes, it gets hot and sometimes things are further than i planned, but its an easy way to avoid getting ripped off by the tuk tuk drivers, and it gives me some exercise. not to mention that its the best way to take in all the sights! =)

no matter which way you go, travel in southeast asia is usually at a slow pace and almost never on time. it takes lots of patience, a strong bladder (sometimes you go hours without bathroom stops! haha) and a good sense of humour! but it’s all part of the journey…

________________ UPDATE!!!

i have to add this one: the lao VIP sleeper bus… i was so excited at first because when i got on i realized we all had beds (the main reason i prefer sleeper trains to buses)! actual bunks that we could stretch out in, as you see below:

"VIP sleeper bus"

but then i realized…. we had to sleep TWO TO A BUNK!! i was stuck for 9 hours trying to keep from rolling into a tourist from china. talk about close quarters! and these bunks are like the size of a twin bed, so you’re really up close and personal with a total stranger. this one took the cake for the most uncomfortable way to spend 9 hours. when the doors opened in pakse, i couldn’t get off fast enough! now i really hate buses! haha!

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3 responses to “point A to point B”

  1. Mom says:

    Fun post to read:)…..sounds pretty adventurous?! We certainly take our comfortable transport at home for granted, don’t we, not to mention air conditioning and nicely paved roads…..

  2. christy says:

    river taxis! they happen to operate on time, i know this b/c we missed ours my mere seconds, and we missed our stop too! fast, fast!

    also don’t forget the sky train and the subway thing you took us on. those were fun 🙂

  3. Jasmine says:

    I saw a picture of you girls on the saengtaw – the truck was red. When I was younger, my stepdad would take us riding in his beat up pick-up truck on dirt roads . Seeing you ladies reminded me of those days. =) Its so interesting that you get to chose this vast variety of transportation. =)

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