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30 Hours on a Bus With No Bathroom

Riddle me this: Let’s say you are a budget traveler. Which is the best option to get from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Vientiane, Laos… while still maintaining your sanity?

a) $150 for a one hour flight
b) $40 for a 24 hour sleeper bus
c) $14 for a “20 hour” sitting bus ride which is widely reported to actually take 36 hours.

Ponder… weigh those options…

..And then shake your head in dismay when you hear that I chose the final, most masochistic option. Listen: a month of Vietnam is hardcore enough on the ego– I figured I’d wrap it up with one final, glorious spurt of punishment.

In truth, the endless bus ended up just fine, thanks to a scrunched but stuporific sleep, continued bus hilarity, and the most zany cast of characters possible.

Here are some highlights:

– The 41-year-old British firecracker who wore the sexiest silk, belly-baring outfit I have ever seen a 41-year-old rock, and who spent the whole trip snuggling with her 24-year-old New Zealander love and getting into screaming fights with the Vietnamese men on the bus who had trouble taking her seriously when she said “Stop the bus because I need to go to the toilet NOW!”

– The fact that the bus had no toilet on board, paired with the fact that we stopped a bladder-bursting once every five hours. The majority of these “bathroom” breaks were us screeching to a halt by the side of the road for men to whip out their… you know, and for the women to scamper to create a little “Ladies Room” behind a particularly bushy bush and swap toilet paper stashes.

– The most amazing bevy of five platinum blond Swedish women (pictured, left, hair glinting over the blue seats) who talked all night with their “Uu’s” and “Aa’s” and were so utterly prepared for the journey that I couldn’t help but gape as they ate their full meal of wrapped grains and fruits, then brushed their teeth by the side of the road with their mini water bottles and travel tooth kits.

– The unbelievable contortions we got ourselves into over the 26 hour journey in order to sleep. Please note that giant sacks of rice and those ubiquitous plastic squat stools were squished in the aisles against us. You like the photos of the feet on the windows?

– The fact that a visa into Laos costs $25 to $35 for every nationality, except for Canadians who, inexplicably, have to pay $42! Hahaha! My bus buddy, a Canadian named Vijay, sniffled, “We’re a peaceful people! What did we ever do to deserve this?”

– How, the moment we crossed over into Laos, the crackling Vietnamese tension in the air dissipated, and even the palm trees bushed out and relaxed. Limestone mountains rose up, cows mooed, and the sun shone over yellow-green rice fields.

So, after three months of hearing how great little Laos is, and after re-starting my beloved (ha!) anti-malaria pill regimen, I am finally in Laos! I’ve only spent a few hours in the capital city, Vientiane, but I can affirm that it is every bit as lovely, calm, friendly, DELICIOUS, and inexpensive as everyone says. I can’t wait to eat my giant $2 breakfast in front of the Mekong river tomorrow morning! Or rather– brunch, because now that I can fully recline, I’m-a-gonna sleep ’til noon!

YUM: Eat Vietnamese Bun Bo Nam Bo!
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