Doing the Milk Run to Pakse

Trip Start Jul 22, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In shipping terminology, a milk run is part loads that get picked up and delivered on a given route. The slow bus from Savannakhet was just that with both human and goods cargo.

The bus was scheduled to leave Savannakhet at 8 am. It did leave the bus station at that time. But the bus made about a dozen stops on the way out of town and picking up more goods. The bus seemed full when we left the bus station. It was packed solid within an hour. Even down the center aisle of the bus they put small plastic stools to seat people.

My bus ticket said seat 9. There was a beautiful young woman seated in that row when I got on the bus but she had her pack in the second seat. I try to get her to move it but she's not having anything to do with that plan. She's pointing at the back of the bus and the empty rows. Guess seat assignment doesn't mean anything on the slow bus.

About an hour outside town and a woman and her 3 kids get on, 8 year old & 6 year old girls and a 6 month old baby boy. The girls sit in single seats in front of us and the woman with the baby next to me. The baby is a little shy at first but warms up to me after a while. In the seats in front of us is another woman, her 3 year old daughter and 6 month old baby boy. The little girl is trying to make the baby next to me smile. The woman next to me is having a hard time holding the baby up for the girl. So I grab the baby and put it on my knees.

For the remainder of the 6 hour, 200 km trip, the baby alternates between me holding it and the mother breastfeeding it. This trip was going to be a "milk run" in more then one way. The titles to my entries just seem to come to me if I wait long enough.

The woman and I got quite cozy during the trip. Well, with her basically on my lap due to the guy on the plastic seat in the center aisle and her breastfeeding, this bus ride was definitely being up close and personal with a Laos woman. This wasn't exactly what I had planned on when I asked the Universe for some Laos companionship, but I guess you take what you can get. The Universe just takes some things so literally some days.

After almost 6 hours of stop and go pick ups and drop offs we get to the Pakse Bus station. The non-locals are a little confused. No one else is getting off but the driver and helper are already removing our packs from the rooftop carrier. The woman next to me doesn't seem to want me to get off when I ask her, Pakse???? Think she's adopted me, or I've just adopted a Laos family. She keeps on pointing that Pakse is still ahead. As per the guidebook the center of town is still 7kms away. But with our packs off the bus, we get off also.

Now an argument starts with the tuk-tuk driver. There's about 8 of us tourists and he wants 30,000 kip from each of us. One woman insists on paying 10,000. Back and forth it went. Some were willing to walk. But I don't think they knew how far downtown actually was. We stand our ground and the tuk-tuk driver relents. I think there's a conspiracy between the bus company and the tuk-tuk drivers. The bus does stop in the middle of town for the locals but the tourists have to get off and on at that bus station so that the tuk-tuk drivers can make some money ferrying them.

We get dropped off in the center of the hotel district. I pay the driver 15,000 kip. The woman had been arguing over $2.00 on a 7km ride. Unfortunately some tourists take the guide books a little too literal. Things do change.

One other couple has their guide book out. I ask where they're going. I follow them as their choice was one of mine. Another couple is already trying to check in when we get there. They're arguing over price and leave. Seems too expensive for their taste.

The couple I'm with ask what's available. They're quoted 250,000 kip for one room. Nothing cheaper. Too rich for their budget and leave. My turn. One night. One person. Yes they do. 140,000 kip. I check the room out. OK by me. It's a double bed. Why didn't they show it to the other couple? Hmmm! My life in action. I meet up with them later and they state, maybe they didn't like us?

I wander around town for a while. Find a coffee shop with free wifi. Then supper at the hotel restaurant. Then more wandering. I meet up with a few beautiful, very young, Laos women. They didn't look like hookers, or more like, they did look like hookers but I'm quite sure they weren't. Earlier at the hotel I had seen a sign about the child sex trade and reporting abusers. These women were most probably old enough, but I can never tell. One night of pleasure isn't worth the hassles, medical and otherwise. Unfortunately too many guys don't see it that way.

Then guess who I run into? I meet up with Florian, the Swiss guy I sat next to on the VIP bus from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. We chat a bit. He's also flying to Ho Chi Minh in the morning. Same flight. He's already booked a tuk-tuk to the airport. Says we can share it and then he can afford another beer tonight to finish off using his kips.

Then I'm off to bed. Up early. Leaving on a prop plane for Vietnam. Goodbye Laos. I really really enjoyed my stay. Will I be back? Well...Nao keeps sending me emails wanting me to go back to Luang Prabang. She's not my Dream Girl. Close, but not quite right. But soon I'll be tired of waiting for the Universe to pony up. I've been very patient. More so then I think most people would be. But then, I may be wrong. I don't know what might be in store for me tomorrow.
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