Hitchhiking in Central Laos

Trip Start Nov 05, 2008
Trip End Jun 23, 2009

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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I did not expect the journey from Savannakhet to Vientiane to be quick or easy, especially the way I did it. The Minaxai's house happened to be on the main road going north, so I started walking and looking for a ride again. I still wasn't sure what the right hand signal was, so I just raised my hand which resulted in about 10 tuk-tuk drivers asking me where I wanted to go with $$ signs in their eyes. I eventually hopped on the back of a pickup local bus, which had no room inside, so I stood on the back for about an hour until we reached the next town. After dropping me off in a small, dusty town, I continued walking north and flagged down a minivan with 3 other locals in it that offered to take me to Thakhek (about halfway to Vientiane) for no money and Vientiane for...let's just say a lot. The driver was a little crazy: He would just start talking in Lao really loudly and no one would respond so he would blast the stereo, which was playing to usual terrible, sappy Thai pop music. I tried to make conversation with him, but he would just shake his head, then 5 minutes later he'd say something almost not expecting a reply, very strange. Then he would drive really slowly on the highway for no reason and made about 15 stops along the way to talk to people at fruit stands. I guess I can't complain after getting a free ride, but this was the only guy I was a little hesitant about. After 3 hours of his nonsense, I was happy to look for a different ride.

This was the most challenging part of my hitchhiking adventure. I waited/walked for about 2 hours with no luck what so ever. The closest thing to a ride was a pickup truck that took me 5 km down the road and turned down a dirt road, so I told them to stop. Then, a sedan with about 7 people already packed in it stopped and asked me something in Lao and the only way I would've fit was if I dove across the back seat on top of 5 other Lao people. With the sun starting to set and my stomach starting to growl, I decided to give up for the day and got a ride back into town and crashed at the first guesthouse I saw. At this point, I had only eaten bananas and crackers the whole day, so I was absolutely starving. The guesthouse was kind enough to lend me their bike that was big enough for a 8 year old, so I biked the 5km to the center of town. The first restaurant I saw in the dumpy town of Thakhek had the most delicious BBQ chicken pizza I've ever had (maybe just because I was so hungry, but it was still really good). Then I met some other travelers and we stumbled upon a local fundraising event with dancing and drinking Beer Lao and we all participated in both for a few hours. I had the honor of leading one of the dances, which is like line dancing with some wavy hand movements. I was so tired by the end of the night, I could barely bike back to my guesthouse.

The next day, I was determined to find success with hitchhiking, so I set out again on the same road that took me 2 hours the day before with no luck. After about 30 minutes, I managed to haggle with one of the big buses to take me halfway to Vientiane for 2 dollars which dropped me off in Paksan and I was still about 2 hours from the capital. Paksan, another small town on the way had nothing to offer, so I tried to hitch again. This time, a truck pulled over and two young Lao guys in their 20s who spoke some English said they would give me a ride to Vientiane, but not for an hour because they wanted to visit friends....8 hours later, we ended up leaving...The guys picked up 2 of their friends and took me to their family picnic in the countryside for about 2 hours. Then we drove an hour in the opposite direction just to get the driver's car washed, so we waited and ate sugar cane and drank Beer Lao. I realized that I was on Lao time, which means time is not really a factor of the day, so waiting around and hanging out for hours is normal and I have gotten very used to it.

We got to Vientiane at about 8pm and I was ready to sleep, so the guys dropped me off at a guesthouse they knew of and we said our goodbyes. The capital city was not very impressive in terms of activity and is mostly a place for travelers to pass through. There are a number of temples to visit and some nice cafes, but there wasn't much to do there. I was more excited to get to Vang Viang, the most hyped up place so far in my travels.

Next Stop: Spring Break in Laos???
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doriastories on

monkeying around in Laos
Hi Luke, I am loving your postings! In particular, that video of a monkey scuttling around was pretty funny. Where did you film it exactly, in the temple? That's a pretty devout monkey. And the kids were cute, I heard you speaking Lao, I think. Watch out for those tuk-tuk drivers, sheesh.

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