I am still recovering from the ride on the ironically titled VIP bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. It's been a week since we sailed through the night on that particular bus and ever since, the noise pollution in Asia has really gotten under my skin. OKAY, back to the bus. The only truth behind the advertisement of this bus was that it was big. We paid a high price to be put on a shabby bus without a toilet. We were the only tourists, which makes me think that we paid for a different bus than the one we were actually put on. I did, however, have two seats to myself in which to curl up in and sleep. I settled myself in for the eight hour night trip and closed my eyes preparing for sleep. I should know by now that anything goes in Asia and this seems to be particularly true in Laos. So why was I shocked when Loatian music began blasting from huge speakers located on the cieling of the bus? The music itself wasn't bad but the volume was painful. I had a headache within minutes. The lights had been turned off and the bus was pitch dark so why the loud music? I blindly felt my way to the front of the bus and asked the driver to turn it down. I had to repeat myself because my voice wasn't audable over the volume of the music. By the time I was back in my seat the driver had turned the volume up high again. This sequence repeated itself three times until I gave up and sat in my seat with my pointer fingers stuck in my ears. At midnight the Loatian music switched to electric guitar rock music.
The bus was supposed to arrive in Luang Prabang in the early morning. However, thanks to the drivers iradic driving throughout the night and only one stop for a bathroom break we were hours early. Being dropped at a bus station in the middle of nowhere at 2 am after a sleepless night is less than fun.
Tuk tuk drivers were sleeping in their trucks in the bus station and they began stirring when the bus arrived, always ready to find business. They wanted six times the actual price to take us into town. After paying way too much for the painful bus ride none of us were in the mood to be scammed again quite yet and we declined. The price imediately dropped but not to a fair price. A monk came over to speak to us and after talking to the tuk tuk driver threw yet another lowered price at us. It was still inflated and we said no. It wasn't far and we felt that walking into town was do-able. The monk then insisted that this is the price he pays too and that we should take the tuk tuk. The four of us looked at eachother with suspicion in our eyes. After all, it is our understanding that monks do not pay for most things because the comunity takes care of them. Did a monk just lie to us?
We put on our packs and began walking through the dark night. Realizing that we were serious about walking and not wanting to lose business the tuk tuk driver finally agreed to take us for the regular fare. We boarded the truck and he demanded we pay upfront. Paying upfront is not the standard and we refused and began disembarking. If we paid upfront how could we be sure that he would take us to the agreed location? I hate to be so distrusting but my experience thus far in Laos has made me cautious. He waved his hands at us to stay on and jumped into the cab and began driving.
Luang Prabang was a ghost town. Not a single being was stirring and we had nowhere to go because it was still the middle of the night. After aimlessly wondering the streets for a short while we gave up and placed our bags down on the pavement of a side street along the river. Sleep took us over and we curled up on our bags with teeth chattering. We woke up with the sun, stiff and cold but ready to take on the day.