In the last passage from my Travelers Notebook, we were on a bus speeding towards Vietnam after running out of cash and days on our visas in Laos. We’ll pick up the direct transcription of my notes on that ride now in part 2 of 24 Hours & $24 to Hanoi:
In second half of ride, local hill-tribe woman sits herself nearly in my lap, forcing her way into the third seat of our 2-person bench. I begin to count the KM markers, doing the conversion to MPH over and over again in my head, but still unable to come up with an average speed over 15 (in MPH or KMH); no way we will reach border before the two-hour lunch break starts at 11:30 a.m.
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Bus finally arrives in end of the line village of Nong Hat, but stops short of the bus station in the center of town by 1 KM. We all wait for ten minutes while satellite dish is unloaded from top of bus, where our bags are also buried beneath livestock and people, holding us hostage within sight of the end.
Finally dropped off in a gravel lot next to the market where the pickups drivers who will take us the last 15 KM to the border seem to already be at lunch. When they return, they demand double the normal price to cram us onto the floor and roof of the already packed truck taxi. Negotiating and looking for other trucks is fruitless, there’s a family monopoly on transport in the village.
We recruit our bus driver and his brother to help negotiate and 45 minutes after arriving here, we are on our way again for slightly less than double the normal price…