We woke up early to be at the bus station by 5 AM. We didn’t know if our bus would leave at 6 or 7 AM, but we wanted to be there on time and get a seat. It all worked out well and we were off at 6 AM.
We drove and drove and drove and by noon, we had finally reached the border town with Laos. We had a pit stop first for lunch, and then we were off to go through custom. You can get your visa at the border, but clearly the guys working there just had no clue. It took so long that our bus driver kept yelling at the custom agents and threatening to leave us behind (read: stranded). Everything was done manually: they had to pull folders containing all the paperwork for both Canadian and American visas and go through page by page of what must have been rules, regulations and people not to let into the country. Finally we managed to get our visa, pay, and get on our way.
Landscapes started to change soon after the border and the road really got twisty-turny. Plastic bags were handed out and we took motion sickness pills: this is how you know that you truly are in Laos. We drove through sceneries of mountainside and wooden homes, tiny villages, kids only wearing dirty t-shirts and people drying grass to make brooms. There is no other place like Laos, and I was glad to be back.
By 7 PM we had reached Phonsavan. It was getting dark, and so we headed straight to one of the hotels listed in our guidebook. We found a room, pretty basic by comparison to Vietnam, and put on as much clothing as we could as it was very cold outside. Our room had no heat and hardly a blanket, so it was pretty cold inside too.
Being New Years Eve, we were in the mood for something nice for dinner. We found an Indian restaurant – who knew that they had those in the middle of nowhere Laos! It was actually really tasty and owned by a family from India. We ate food that tasted nothing like what we’d have for months and drank celebratory Beer Lao.