I don’t know what we were thinking. Two nights in a row spent on sleeper buses… Probably not our best decision but it does sound so appealing, traveling at night. And it probably would be very convenient if the rides were smoother and more space was allowed per person, but that’s not always the case.
It started when we left Luang Prabang. From the outside it seemed we would be living the next ten hours in luxury – sorely mistaken I’m afraid. You mustn’t judge a book by its cover after all. It turns out that it was not so nice inside. Luckily Rob and I are together otherwise we would have been assigned a bed buddy for the night. Not very exciting actually when there is only about 2.5 feet of mattress width to share. It would have also be appreciated if the pillow cases and blankets had been washed (ours were not clean in the slightest).
Our assigned bed that first night was across from the tiny toilet closet that (as a lady) you literally had to back into in order to shut the door. Once that was closed (I would have said latched instead, but that was broken on this particular door), there was no turning around. Being near the toilet wouldn’t be so bad but on our bus the door was hanging off its hinges at a wonky angle so in order for it to sit flush in its frame, users had to lift up on the handle and give it a brisk nudge to get the damn thing closed. Unfortunately many of our fellow bus mates were too eager to get back into bed that they didn’t take the time to learn this important step so throughout the night as we hurdled around bends and sped over bumps, the door banged ruthlessly against its frame, reminding me how uncomfortable I was…not that I needed a reminder.
Since we were splitting an upper bunk, the windy road coupled with the driver’s recklessness had me awake every few moments in fear I would fall off since the guard rail only blocked my head and feet, not the rest of me. Needless to say our sleep was not fantastic that night.
We arrived at the capital early the next morning in a haze of sleepiness. A downpour greeted us far earlier than the man scheduled to pick us up, but thankfully after only 30 minutes of watching people work their way through a flooded parking lot, we were headed to the city center of Vientiane, Laos.
Morning had only just begun and it was Sunday so the area had a lot of waking up to do, as did we. Unfortunately, it’s not a very nice city. We both found it very bland with little to attract visitors. To use up our day we spent a lot of time in cafes, had massages, a short wander, and I got a facial just before returning to the tourism office to fetch our bags and depart for the bus station.
This second bus from Vientiane to Pakse was a true improvement. We had penthouse suites above the driver’s cabin – wide enough for four people. The aisle was much narrower, which meant that the bunks were a bit wider. We silently sat in anxious anticipation, crossing our fingers that we would have that whole space to ourselves. Not the case – along came an Irish couple we would be spooning with for the next 10 hours. It wouldn’t have been too bad if we had the space to straighten out our legs but the mattresses up there were quite a bit shorter for some horrible reason.
The ride started out perfectly, until the driver decided it was party time and cranked up the tunes and bass. We could feel the floor thumping and they refused to turn it down despite us knocking and requesting so. They had FOUR people squeezed in the driver’s cabin – FOUR. This went on for hours. I was so angry and exhausted. I wanted to cry. When the music eventually did die down, the incessant rattling of the panels above us was enough to drive us crazy. No joke, listen for yourself:
Advertising it as a sleeper bus was completely inaccurate.
Morning eventually came and we were in Pakse. Our final destination of Si Phan Don was three hours away in a minivan, so we ate breakfast and set out for another leg of our journey, happy to bid ADIOS to those sleeper buses!