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Go where the locals go. A good rule to live by when exploring a new country. Asking a proficient English speaking hotel manager in Luang Prabang where she’d recommend going in Lao, the response was Savannakhet (in southern Lao; Savanh for short). She said that Savanh is today what Luang Prabang was 20 years ago.We were sold, but would the getting there would require another bad luck bus trip? Fingers were crossed.
By the time we’d roll in to Savannakhet it was pitch black. The bus had stopped outside of the main town that we needed to get to, but the lady whose groceries made up the second deck of the bus said that our ticket included a tuk tuk ride. So we’d load up with a tuk tuk and then we’d wait… The driver would get friendly and speak some English, but then when we’d ask when we could go he’d pretend like he didn’t speak any English…then start up the truck…then go back to doing nothing…Tired and with patience dwindling, we’d ask to leave in a more heated manor. It was then that the driver offered to go now if we’d each pay 20,000 kip ($2.50 US). Of course we’d been told that this was a free ride, so we refused, but Rene (our Swiss friend who was the only other foreigner to brave the public bus) was quick to get on board. Morgan and I decide we’d walk. The driver then turned on his flashlight and held it up in my face to say 20,000 kip again. Well now walking was happening for sure after that move…This is a typical occurrence. The bus won’t want to reroute 30 minutes off its course for a few people so it will stop outside the city center somewhere usually abandoned and let you get there yourself. After midnight there’s a 10,000 kip ($1.25 US) surcharge in Lao for transportation, but no one tells you this…not even Lonely Planet.