I know that sounds like a lot, and most of you will probably think I'm crazy when I tell you that I actually enjoyed it! From Hanoi, we shared bus with 2 more Australians (one definitely gay and the other we still haven't determined yet) and a 20 year old Norwegian guy whom we refer to as Hulk due to the nature of his bulky shoulders. These guys became our friends quickly as we boarded the "disco bus" after our first bus broke down a half hour into the trip!
Believe it or not, the trip went quite quickly, and as soon as we sat down at a cafe in the capital city of Vientiane, Laos, the speed of life instantly slowed down about 75%. No touting, no begging, just smiling faces eager to help you and beautiful countryside to boot! For a capital city in Asia, or anywhere in the world for that matter, Vientiane was quite surprisingly quiet. We met a really cool guy from San Fran and settled in with some beer Lao and some Lao Lao (rice whisky) to start the night up right!
Once we finished our drinks and had some street food (Pad Thai....yum!) we headed off to the "disco" inside a huge hotel decked in Christmas lights and trees. You'd never know it was there unless someone told you, and what was behind the doors of the club was equally surprising. We found that about half the girls inside the club were actually "lady boys" which are Asian transvestites (mostly post-op) who were exceedingly friendly... especially to our gay friend(s). One of the lady boys pulled Rene (out of the closet) into the bathroom to show off his/her recent operation goodies! The stories were hilarious to say the least. Ended up being a late night and we awoke the next morning feeling it for sure.
We woke up slowly and jumped on another bus headed toward Vang Vienne, which is famous for it's river tubing. Groggy as hell, but excited, the 4 of us boarded the bus ready to sleep for the short 6 hour trip up the coast. Sleep was absolutely out of the question once we saw the local-packed bus we were about to step into. Once we each found a single seat, we plugged in our ipods in an attempt to drown out the sounds of the horrible Lao karaoke and local chit-chat. Just starting to settle in, Rene tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the man sitting across the aisle from us. I looked over annoyed that he had interrupted my near slumber to see the man carrying a concealed AK-47! I nearly shit my pants, and so did Lily. We looked at each other with cloudy eyes wanting to scream, cry, jump out the window, anything to get us out of this vacation gone-wrong. We sat tense and completely silent for 20 minutes running through every possible
scenario in our flustered minds. Maybe he had just bought the gun and was bringing it home? Maybe he was a hijacker? Maybe he was a security guard...no he was too young to be a security guard. Why was he concealing it? Did they let him on the bus with that? Did they even see it? Why didn't anyone try to stop him? Should we just get off the bus and can the measly $3 we spent on the cheap bus out of town? Was the window big enough that we could jump out of the moving bus if need be? It all whirled around in our heads just long enough to really freak us out. Luckily, on the other side of the "hijacker" was a Western Expat (or angel as I'd like to call him) who explained to us the purpose of this man. He was indeed a "guard" of sorts who is meant to protect (or shoot back) in case the bus is shot up by local terrorists. Don't ask me what the hell good it would do, especially because he was asleep nearly the whole ride, but that's what he was! I guess that explains why he was so anxious and clenching the seat in front of him for the first half of the ride. But what it doesn't explain is why he would cover the gun anytime someone walked towards him...still seems kinda fishy to me.
We made it off the bus in Vang Vienne and hi-fived to each other's well being...I think I'll start a new blog to explain the rest of our time in VV... One of the Aussies got a picture of the gun, sespite the fact that I begged him not to during the melt-down....whatever you do, I said, don't take a picture! HA!