Up with the Larks

23 Mar

So we’ve arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos, and, as ever, I’m still trying to work out whether the benefits of night buses — saves a day’s travel and the cost of a room — are outweighed by the pitiful condition in which we reach our destination.

I’m not sure they’ve quite got the hang of the night bus concept in Laos. It takes six or seven hours to get to Luang Prabang from Vang Vieng.

So you would think that a night bus would leave at 10pm or thereabouts, break the journey in the night, and reach the destination at 6am or so. This is roughly how they do it in ‘Nam. From tubing to temples in one easy step.

But, no.

We are already on our bus, which is not, in fact, a bus, but a minibus, but which we have all to ourselves, when I ask the lovely chap who has picked us up at 8.45pm what time we get in to town.

“Maybe three?” he says. “You have a hotel booked?”

“Err, no,” I say. “I was thinking we would sleep and get there in the morning.”

He looks at me, meditatively.

“Maybe we stop by the road for a bit, and you sleep?” he says.

Which he duly did. God bless him.

Even better, once I’d prised Z’s laptop and The Simpsons out of his cold dead hands, he slept like the proverbial.

On arrival, it became clear that he has now acquired the fine male art of arguing, lucidly, without exiting sleep, attaining full consciousness, or even opening his eyes.

Which is certainly a step up from his mood when our sleeper bus arrived in Vientiane a few days back.

I had had the stupidity to fall asleep shortly after the driver had finished playing one of Z’s DVDs on the big screen (9ine), part of the way through watching Moonraker (of all the bloody Bond films, honestly) on his laptop.

End result is, Z finished his Roger Moore fest, followed up with something from Studio Gibli, and arrived in Vientiane on approximately four hours sleep, snuggled under a duvet and physically insistent on staying there.

It was not a happy start to that particular day. Particularly given that bus was the fourth separate place we had slept in for four nights in a row.

Anyway. Today is going much better, so far.

“Z,” I say. “It’s time to get up. We’re here. We’re in Luang Prabang.”

“Nonsense,” comes a small, but nonetheless assertive voice from the body on the back seat. “The driver’s just stopped for a pee again.”

This is, I have to say, as a response, infinitely preferable to “No, no, leave me alone, I want to stay here,” accompanied by a firm grip on a duvet.

“No, he hasn’t,” I say.

“Mum,” he says. “It’s still dark. Have you actually checked that we are here?”

“Yes,” I say. “I’ve got out of the van, gone to two guesthouses, found one with a room and booked a room.”

“Hmmm,” he says, playing for time. “Are you sure?”

I’m sure. “Come on, sweetheart,” I say. “All you need to do is get out of the bus, get into the room, and then you can go straight to bed for a lie-in.”

Which he has duly done.

Meanwhile, I’m down the road, on my second coffee of the day, watching the parade of scooters on our street a few blocks back from the pretty bit — I really couldn’t face pounding the Old Quarter at 5am, not even for the views over the Mekong — as the grey haze overhead develops into blue.

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