The Sun was bright; so I took an early walk around town to the information centre and get a snack. I checked out the Information centre and gave the photos to Sinakhone. She promised to get them to the villagers on the net trip. I looked at timetable on the wall which stated a 9am departure for Vientiane so at 8:20 a tuk tuk ride would be easy.
I collected my gear at the Xayamounkhoung and was at the bus station at 8:40 I had not eaten any breakfast so was going to pick up something for the journey. I bought the ticket and was told the bus was leaving now. They let me dash over to the food stalls. I got some water; but for food the only thing which looked edible were packets of crisps or cakes. I picked up a bottle of water, orange juice and a pack of custard cakes and boarded the bus.
As I'd missed breakfast I decided to tuck into the large bag of custard cakes. They looked good on the picture, but getting into the air filled and sealed packages were not an easy task. My knife as hidden away somewhere, so I struggled with sweaty hand to get to grips with my only source of protein.
After a struggle using a pair of my remaining canines, I managed to tear a small hole, enough to part the tough aluminium reinforced plastic bullet proofed shell. I was sure that opening a small tortoise might be easier! The resultant custard cake was not custard at all. Well not as I understand anyway. The soapy glutinous orange yellow mass of goo surrounded by dry sponge; one stage before fossilization, was really wasn't that appetising. I had about 18 of the bloody things to eat.
The bus was quarter full so plenty of space, There were several stops around town picking up passengers and (literally) a Honda motor bike which was first up front with the driver and then moved to the rear as the bus filled. This caused difficulties for some of the older passengers who had to climb over the Honda with their bags getting tangled in the handlebars to get to the rear of the bus.
The bus had no air con , but thankfully the weather was fairly cool and cloudy. The front door and windows gave cool ventilation; at least until the bus stopped. The rise in temperature and humidly left me dripping with sweat.
The bus stopped several times with kids passing unrecognisable fruit, vegetables and various barbequed chicken parts of questionable history. Nothing much looked edible or even recognisable so I continued munching on a few more custard cakes. Actually after several of these wonderful culinary creations. I was actually beginning to enjoy them. Well the process of getting them out of there sealed packages were an interesting challenge for the journey!
On one of the many 10 minute stops; a transaction was interrupted half way when the bus sped off, the Passenger threw a banknote out the window; I hope the vendor picked it up!
The landscape as we travelled north was a mix of forest and emerald rice fields with typical South East Asian thatched farm houses. These were similar to the Cambodian style; though neater and better built. As we approached each town smart Thai Style villas came into view. Most of the towns were small; many built of wood with tin roofs.
As the bus headed northwards steep limestone Karst mountains came into view. Jungle clad; they looked impossibly steep. The higher mountains had their heads swathed in cloud. The peaks were up to 1000 to 1500 metres high as we hit the half way point in the journey. The New road was smooth and wide with little traffic so the killometrrs rolled by very quickly. Athough the road ran close to the Mekong It was too far away to see until Paksa Din where two rivers converged. The Mekong was often seen after this point.
By 5pm one could see the approach of urban Vientiane with isolated factories merging with nice vilas along the road. Traffic increased and a large flowery roundabout and wide boulevard signified entry to the city. The contrast to Thailand was remarkable. On my previous bus trips there; one dreary concrete town merged into another and they all look the same. Here there are few big towns and only a handful of cities; so it is a bit more obvious where you are.
The bus rolled into Vientiane around half an hour early. Now it was time to find somewhere to stay. A few tuk tuk drivers asked for custom; but none of the chaos of other Asian capital cities. I found the WC and walked outside to look for a Tuk tuk driver. Yes I had to actually come up to one and ask!
I wanted to go to the That Leung Guest House. The driver took me a long way before I discovered he was taking me the wrong direction to the That Leung Stupa. He took me back to the city insisting that I go to a place near the Morning Market which was not where I wanted to be. The Driver had not heard of the That Leung GH so I suggested my second choice near the river; the Villa Manoly. The driver was still pushing for me to stay at the other hotel at $20 I saw it as we passed It looked OK but in the wrong place.
The Villa Manoly looked lovely with gardens and small pool. The room was good; but no internet or anywhere nearby; so tried others on the list . There was a serious communication problem the driver couldn't understand me and it was now so dark, I couldn't see the small writing on the Lonely planet guide to show him. I asked to go down to the river and he took me to The Pakse hotel just of the river . It looked nice; but the rooms were small and without chair or table. At $25 I would expect better.
The third try was the Hotel Inter City the LP guide gave a good recommendation and being on the waterfront was in the centre of things The driver wanted $10 for the ride; I wouldn't pay that as he didn't know where he was going and was on the commission game for sure. He reluctantly accepted 40,000 kip which I think I was being generous.
As soon as I entered the Inter City I could see this was a classy and attractive place. The lobby and common areas were gorgeous with lots of antique furniture wood and ceramic sculptures and mosaic tiling . Rooms led off a covered atrium or courtyard. The small rooms were a good size and the deluxe were beautiful with 4 poster bed and river views, I picked a standard twin with window. Perfect and very stylish and for $30 inc Breakfast. With in-room internet access and frei fi in the lobby It was the perfect place to stay! I had a great Indian Meal at the Nazir Restaurant on the river front
booked the bus to Vang Vieng as I planned to.