We would have liked to spend another day in Vang Vieng, but it was time to head south to the capitol of Laos, Vientiane (Wienchan). We bought our bus tickets through Manalay, a company that offered hotel pick up, thinking it would be nice to not have to pull our suitcase along the rocky dirt road leading from our bungalow to the main paved road. What we didn’t anticipate is that picking everyone up from their hotels would mean leaving an hour late. We were told to wait for a minibus to take us to the big bus between 9:30-10am. As we sat on the bench near the reception and the minutes passed we began to wonder if we had bought tickets from a legitimate business or if we had paid for a little piece of paper that was useless. At 10am George asked the receptionist if he could use the phone and the receptionist offered to call the company for us and let us know that the minibus was on it’s way to pick us up. Another passenger on our minibus had gotten separated from his friend who had their tickets, because after waiting 20 minutes past their pick up time his friend had gone back to the office that sold them the tickets to find out what was going on. The minibus went by the ticket office looking for “the friend,” but when he wasn’t there the driver gave up on him and took the rest of us to the big bus. George tried to help the guy out using some of his Thai, but the minibus driver told George to mind his own business and get on the bus. The poor guy had to hire a tuk tuk to take him back to the hotel in search of his friend, and a few minutes after he left his friend showed up at the big bus via another minibus. An hour after departure time, and quite a few frustrated tourists later, we were all on board and ready to head to Vientiane. Laos only opened up to foreigners in 2000, and it’s still working the kinks out. If you plan to take a long distance bus there just know what to expect, and that way it won’t be nearly as frustrating.
The lunch stop was much better this time. It was a small shop with chips, cold drinks, and sandwiches. We shared a tuna sandwich on baguette and stretched our legs.
If you’re making the trip from Vang Vieng to Vientiane, there’s also a much more adventurous alternative. You can join a tour that includes truck ride, kayaking for 4 hours, and then another truck ride. Your luggage goes via van, so you don’t have to lug it with you on the kayak. We would have liked to try that option, but since I was still a bit under the weather and the trip would be much longer we went with the VIP bus. You can also take a minibus the whole way, which we wished we had, since it leaves faster, since it has fewer passengers to pick up.
We arrived in Vientiane an hour and 45 minutes late. Since we weren’t sure where our hotel was located we didn’t have much choice but to take a share tuk tuk, even though it turned out the bus had dropped us not too far from our hotel.
We stayed at the Inter City Hotel, and were pleased with it. At first they mistakenly gave us a nice big room with a view of the Mekong River, but as soon as they realized the mistake we were moved to a room with a view of a cement wall a foot away. The room was still nice and the hotel lobby was decorated with wooden carvings and burl furniture.
After unpacking we still had some day light left and headed out to fit in at least one site.