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Taking matters into our own hands.......

Travelling from Kong Lor to Paksan on our way to Phonsavan.

Knowing that we had made it from Tha Khek to Kong Lor on our own we were confident (almost) that we could get out of Kong Lor and make the same trip back but divert to Paksan where we would stay a night before heading to Phonsavan. Making it back in time to check out before midday after the cave we thought we would be able to start our journey immediately, however our guesthouse told us that we could not get a songthaew until 2pm so it was a waiting game for the next one. It transpired that because we were the only two people wanting to leave the driver was going to charge us 150,000kip just to travel 40km up the road to the bus stop for a songthaew to Ban Na Hin. Knowing that we paid only 50,000 kip together to do this journey before we were in a conundrum because we certainly didn't want to pay more but also we were ready to leave. We then talked ourselves into staying in Kong Lor another night as the early bus to Vientiene would leave the next morning and were just about to rebook a room when a local started talking in English and said that the driver had changed his mind and will charge us the standard rate for going up the road to the next bus stop.

We had to make a split second decision then and there because it wasn't a guarantee that we could go onward from there to Vieng Kham, but we went with our gut feeling and we jumped on. We were apprehensive because plans had changed again and it didn't help that the driver veered off road to the other houses and stopped to drop off cement bags (which I picked up for them trying to quicken the drop off). It could of been one of those annoying moments you retell to other travellers when you think you are getting something and it turns out you are being shafted!

Thankfully, the songthaew did take us to the bus stop in the nearby town of Ban Na Hin and I was able to do some gesturing/simple word questions to make sure that we definitely could get a transfer to Vieng Kham and the driver assured we could. Still we waited and things were a bit tense until 5 mins later the songthaew's started rolling in from both directions and then we heard the shouts of 'Vieng Kham', and within a flash we were onboard bags and all making our way the way we came! PHEW!.

The route was a pleasant one as the sun was shining and we got to see the incredible view for a split moment that takes in the spikey mountain range before continuing on along the winding roads for an hour or so before we were in Vieng Kham. Our driver and what appeared to be his wife helped us off and then asked 'where you go' and I think the man had better English because I had said we were heading to Paksan to the wife but she may not of heard me before as we were in the back of the songthaew when we spoke. Anyway, realising that we were going the same way as them they signalled for us to get bags back on and we were on the move again. The idea we sort of understood was that we could get to a place called Pakading and then transfer again to Paksan. Sounded relatively simple so we sat back and took in the view again. We had a short stop to unload a load of grass that a young girl was traveling with that filled the back of the songthaew and she had her little son on her back which I felt bad for because as she was getting out of the back she completely forgot he was on her back and bonked his head rather hard on the roof, he didn't bat an eyelid.

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The rest of the trip was uneventful until we got to Pakading. The driver and wife signalled it was the stop and we paid another 40,000kip each and felt uneasy as it was not really an official stop as far as we could see. However the driver was adamant that we could get to Paksan, well he didn't say those exact words, but he was nodding along to my question but you sort of instinctively know if someone is genuine or not and I was sure he was.
From that moment we were on our own on the outskirts of a town we didn't know and the sun was going down, a combination that would worry the best of parents. (sorry Mum :-) )

We waited........and waited.........and waited and still no sign of a songthaew or even a bus for over hour, things started to look grim. We were ready to make a move into the town to find a guesthouse in the dark when a big bus pulled up and up went our arms and it tooted and stopped and the door opened by the driver and I shouted 'Paksan!!'.......the driver nodded approval and the assistants jumped out grabbed our bags and we walked on to what we later realised was the VIP bus which was likely coming from the south.

We had to sit on tiny stalls in the aisle for about an hour before we got to Paksan and paid 40,000 kip for the pleasure, which in hindsight we probably ended up paying more than if we had just got the bus from Kong Lor to Vientienne....but hey that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes, and even with the scares it was still an adventure in itself and also a lesson in having faith in your own decisions.

Paksan as a town hasn't really got anything to offer, it is really a thoroughfare between main cities with a border crossing to Thailand. This wasn't a problem as we were only here to transfer to Phonsvan. It was a short walk apparantly to the recommended guesthouse in the guidebook after we saw a sign on the main road. We had been dropped off further down the road than we would of liked mainly due to missing the opportunity to get the bus driver to stop. Walking down the road at night didn't help and it seemed that the guesthouse wasn't in the location the sign specified. So we started walking back and thankfully walked passed a Swiss couple who were staying at the guesthouse and told us we had been going in the right direction. Dopes!!

We booked in to what seemed to be the only guesthouse in town and the Swiss couple said don't bother looking for somewhere to go out because there isn't anywhere apart from a karaoke restaurant. We decided to go to the restaurant but then saw a BBQ type place on the main road and stopped there instead. Now we have been pretty good when it comes to local food mainly due to the fact that Lao food is scrumptious but when we ordered a pork barbecue we didn't expect to just get the fat without any meat! So disappointing when all you want is a good meal after a long day...after chucking that down with a beer we went to bed ready to get to the market in the morning for the bus to Phonsvan.

We were pleasantly surprised that the bus service in Paksan was easily sorted and we got ourself some bread and sticky rice for breakfast from the market and left for Phonsvan knowing that we had a 10 hour bus ride ahead. The bus trip was shorter than expected but I personally had a bad trip as it was quite hot and I got easily uncomfortable during the trip, but I have had some good bus rides as well so it was bound to balance out at some point.

Arriving in Phonsvan we found ourselves at the bus stop outside town again and was pleasantly helped by an elder man who spoke English and offered us onto a songthaew to our guesthouse which was recommended by our guidebook.

We checked out the rooms at Kong Keo and decided on the basic shed like room for 60,000 kip a night and were told by the owner Kong that there was a music night later and I should go up a play! Why Not!! ..he also gave us a real bullet as a key chain for our room revealing a terrible past that has scarred Phonsavan for many years..we had to learn more!

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Stay tuned for more tales.....

Dan

Posted by doyledan 01:17 Archived in Laos

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