People say it’s less about the destination, more about the journey. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, especially as it pertains to Vientiane. I will always remember the brutal trip across the border more than I will remember the picturesque town. Beyond that, I will also always remember to verify that there are toilets on 24-hour buses.
I learn this the hard way when, at 3am, in Gatorade-fueled desperation, I have to plead for an hour with the driver to pull over. Finally, he consents and I go frantically running off into the dark, attempting to at least put a little distance between myself and the bus, considering there are no trees or bushes to hide behind in this particular field. I do eventually find some cover when I land knee-deep in mud and lose both of my shoes to the pit. Still focused on the task at hand, I holler at Aristo to come pull my shoes out, which he finally is able to do after several tries. His efforts prove entirely wasted, as the driver refuses to let me bring my muddy shoes on the bus and insists on hosing me off before I can re-board. So now I’m hypothermic and barefoot, but at least I got to pee.
At 6am, we are prodded awake and made to wait in a line to depart Vietnam, walk across the border, and then apply for entrance to Laos. It is what appears to be arctic winter outside and my feet are near frostbite from the earlier cold water, though the driver has been kind enough to lend me his sandals, which are both left feet.
By 4pm and not a moment too soon, mind you, we arrive in Vientiane. In our usual fashion, we wander aimlessly for a few hours before settling on a hotel. Finally, we are backpack free and outside enjoying dinner at a night market, wandering along the Mekong River, and casting sidelong glances at Thailand, and trying to put the horrors of the bus trip far behind us.