At 6am we were off for Laos, the country that most people I've met travelling have told me would undoubtedly be the hightlight of my Southeast Asian experience. Over the next two weeks I would learn that they were completely right. Up until the Laos border we were on the same bus as people doing a tour of the DMZ, or demilitarized zone, so we got a bit of history on the Vietnam War from the tour guide on board the bus, and all for free! It was really fascinating stuff and if I had have stayed an extra day in Hue I definitely would have done the whole tour.
It was only 9 of us who got dropped at the border post, so by the end of the trip we all got on really well. There was this Irish guy Martin who Gen and I had met in Nha Trang on New Year's Eve, a lovely Aussie and British couple, a nice Czech guy, and a girl from Korea. After exiting Vietnam we walked the kilometer or so to the Laos side, looking like renegades trudging along in a big group with huge backpacks into the dusty little town. There we were greeted by a fun local bus crammed full of vegetables and fruit in the back (I think there was a live pig back there at some point as well) and heaving with various boxes of stuff piled on top of the roof.
After a few hours of going through dusty little villages and having the adorable local kids wave like crazy at us, we arrived in the small town of Savannakhet. Immediately we all remarked on how relaxed and laid back it was. Unlike everywhere we'd been in Vietnam, there was no one coming up to us every 5 seconds trying to sell us something or take us somewhere in their tuk-tuk. The locals just let us go about and do our own thing, a complete novelty from everywhere else in Southeast Asia. What a breath of fresh air!
After finding a guesthouse with Martin and the british couple, Sarah and Tom, the 5 of us tucked into our first Lao dinner and enjoyed the first of many delicious Beelao.