We opted for the VIP bus from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng, since it had air-conditioning, a bathroom on board, and lunch included. It was scheduled to be a 5 hour ride, departing at 9am and arriving at 2pm. We purchased the tickets through All Lao Services, Co, since that’s where we booked our tours. We were disappointed we when boarded the “VIP” bus that there wasn’t much “VIP” about it. The bus looked 15 years old and was grungy. Even though we’d opted for the bus with a toilet, there was no way I was venturing to the bathroom. The one good thing was that they provided us with bottled water. Our Lonely Planet guidebook has been wrong about a lot of things, but it was right about the buses. The guidebook warned that the buses run late and are likely to break down.
I slept for the first half the trip, since I still wasn’t feeling well- with a cold. George woke me up at some point to look at the amazing view. The road runs along the rim of a mountain, with a huge deep gorge beside it, and more sheer limestone mountains across the way. Along the road there were scattered traditional Lao homes, made with woven bamboo walls and grass roofs, with million dollar views. At some point there was a clank and a sound like we had run over something. The bus driver stopped and got out and went back and retrieved part of the bus that had fallen out. From that point we traveled at about half the speed we had been going. As the driver maneuvered down the twisting steep road we hoped whatever had fallen out of the bus wasn’t too important and didn’t have anything to do with the brakes. We finally reached the lunch break. It was a buffet with rice and some different veggie dishes. We’d gotten used to eating at iffy-looking places in Thailand that had really good food. But this place was dirty and had barely-edible food. We grabbed some chips from their little shop on the way out, to have something to eat on the bus. Luckily I’d also saved half of my baguette from breakfast. We arrived in Vang Vieng over two hours late, but luckily it was still light out.