I crossed the border by sleeper bus from Hanoi. I had not been on a sleeper before so had no idea what to expect but booked it through the hostel for convenience.
I was collected from the hostel by a mini van crammed full of tourists. I couldn’t help but giggle.
As is usual in Asia, many more people (and their luggage) were crammed into the vehicle than there were seats available and unlike locals who just get on with it, the bus instead was full of incredulous Westerners horrified by the lack of space. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, being crammed in on top of each other it is impossible not to get chatting to other people and I loved how many interesting people were on board. Although I’m not sure everyone felt the same…
Once at the bus station, which is a few miles out of town, the few of us headed to Luang Prabang were bundled through the entry point and left to find our bus.
Whatever I had been expecting from a sleeper bus, my first glance was not it.
It looked like a party bus. All bright lights in red and green. I was not sure how much sleep I would get on this “sleeper” bus.
Inside the bus was split into two levels and with three seatbeds per row. Underneath the upper level was reserved for luggage and packages. All 7 of us foreigners were allocated the back of the the level and the rest of the bus was packed with locals, either Vietnamese or Lao.
To my surprise, it was not long before everyone was settling down for the night…At the raucous time of 7pm! We did get up for food at a local cafe around 9pm and after that we all slept until the border checkpoint the next morning at 7am.
Crossing the border was easy, and speeded up by the bus driver who blatantly bribed the guards. He collected all our passports together, stacked some notes fished out of his back pocket on top of them and suddenly our passports were processed.
I was grateful that the border did not take long as the bus journey is long enough anyway. 27 hours in total to Laung Prabang. The incredibly windy roads on the Laos side meant that we covered the last 60km or so in about five hours.
It was impossible to sit up properly as the seats were permanently reclined which meant I spent most of the journey dozing. It was not uncomfortable, though I was glad to get off the bus and walk around whenever we could.
Of the 7 foreigners on board, there was myself and a Bulgarian lady, Svetla, who were travelling alone. There were three 18/19 year old lads from Australia traveling together and a 19 year old Guatemalan, Jose, and 17 year old Columbian, Adolpho, travelling together. The contrast between the two groups of lads was extraordinary. The three Aussie lads, though nice, seemed very immature, complaining and swearing all the time. I had the distinct impression they felt they had something to prove.
In contrast, Adolpho and Jose were incredible. They were both studying at an international school in India and were so mature and worldly for their ages. It was hard to believe they were so young. Both Svetla and I were so impressed by their attitude and ability to embrace the experience. If course every experience in life is affected by who we share it with and it felt a privilege to share the journey with Svetla, Adolpho and Jose.