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Friday 18 Apr 2003
Savannakhet, Laos

24 hours of hell!!!

Ive arrived in Savannakhet and surprise surprise I find a net cafe! Wahay!

The bus journey from Hanoi wasnt quite as bad as expected... I managed to get the entire back row to myself but this was also a bad thing: The back of the bus suffered from major suspension overload! I was literally flying out of my seat as the driver took to the Laos roads (easily as bad as Cambodia) as if he was in the Grand Prix. That and the fact that the (Laos-owned) bus seats were not properly attached to the rail so that the entire seat followed me as we both flew into the air. Oh h yeah, the bus was pretty filthy, I think I went through about 15 Wipes in 2 hours as anything I touched stank of dust and old hair-oil.

Needless to say I did manage to get 1 hour sleep in the past 24 hours!!! Arriving into Laos was fun... after 2 hours driving through Laos the driver "kindly" informs me that the bus is heading to Vientiane only, so he tries to stop every bus we pass to see if they can take me to Savan. Eventually a local bus full to the brim with chickens and hamsters... and several hundred Lao... stopped and I was told to board it.

I had to pay another 3 bucks (even though I had already paid for the Savannakhet ticket in Hanoi... it was irrelevant since this bus was only local transport) and sat on my bag surrounded by loads of staring Lao. Soon enough I began to enjoy myself and was watching Lao comedy on the TV while sharing my peanuts with the kids. Everybody on the bus seemed to be eating from sticks, whether chicken feet or dog meat (I guess!) but I wasnt offered a nibble ...ah well maybe tis better: I havent been sick on my trip yet and Id rather not start on an overpacked bus somewhere in Laos! Thats another thing... not only was every seat taken but the central isle was populated with more loose stools that people sat on. I had to sit on my backpack for a while cuz of the lack of room and priority given to the chickens on the seats, or to the Lao sitting in a squat position on the seats for hours (INTERESTING FACT: the squat position is something that every Asian can do, but impossible for us Euros to do unless we do yoga - I know, Ive tried countless times and fallen on my backside in the process).

After another 5 hours, I arrived in Savannakhet. The interesting thing about this place is that it is on the Mekong river (which acts as the border between Thailand and Laos) and Thailand is literally a stones throw away (about 500 metres across the river). On my side of the river we have poor houses and people and on the other side I can see large hotels, well-lit streets and industrial plants! Mad.

My plan is to next head South to the "4000 islands" as recommended by Peter Cooney! Ill probably take in Wat Phu Champasak which is a temple from the same period as Angkor Wat. Its half-way from Savan to Si Phan Dao (4000 islands).

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