The bus left Luang Prabang at 8am. The “VIP” bus has armchair like seats and it would be a very comfortable ride for the Lao people or any others who are under 5ft but we had to sit with our legs wide apart to be semi comfortable. We sat on the upper level of the bus and had a wonderful view. I took some photos but the windows weren’t very clean so they will probably be like looking through a net curtain.

The trip would not good for anyone who suffers motion sickness as it is a very winding trip up through the mountains with some hairpin bends and the bus acts like a cradle, rocking from side to side. We were treated to many Lao popular music CD’s a couple of which had a bit of a melody.

There was a toilet on the lower level but you would have to be a dwarf to get through the doorway. Luckily the dirver made a stop about 3hours into the journey where we paid 2000kip (25cents) to use the squat toilets. Luckily the knees are holding out! Maurice and I also knocked our heads as we got up on the overhead shelves as they are also built for Laotians. We had a stop for lunch and we were amazed that a girl came out of the lower level of the bus complete with a large bag and a motorbike which she got on and drove away.

The scenery for the first leg of the trip to Vang Vieng was wonderful with specdtacular views way down the valleys and up to the mountains. There are a lot of plantation forrests We then got some rain but not too much and it then cleared up for the rest of the journey.

The little villages perched on the mountainsides have a mixture of houses of woven bamboo with thatched roof or houses made of handmade concrete blocks. Most places seem to have satellite dishes. We only saw one primary school sign and lots of children collecting water or playing together. After 4hours we came to a large village with lots of stalls selling a variety of goods. We then came down from the mountains and a lot of hills had been logged but many hills had also been replanted so it seems that they are replacing as they log and not just wiping out whole areas. We then came across a lot of rice paddies and market gardens and a few more large villages. The bus driver honked the horn many times to move the many cows, goats and dogs that were just wandering freely. There was also a lot of poor housing right next to the road and lots of people sitting together playing cards or just relaxing.

The trip on the flat was different from the mountain road which was in good condition. The last four hours we bumped our way over patches of bitumenised road and dirt road and very corrugated road and many large pot holes filled with water. The bus driver definately earned his money.

There is a lot of construction of houses and other buildings and a few of the Lao people we spoke to are keen to catch up with their Vietnamese and Thai neighbours but they seem to have done very well in the 13years since Laos was opened to the world. We found the people polite and friendly in general with even a few words of English. We learnt to say hello, thank you and that is delicious and they seemed happy with that.We arrived in Vientiane after 11hours and got a tuk tuk into our hotel just back from the Mekong river. As it was late we just went around the corner to a little cafe and I had homemade fettucini which were delicious for $4. There are a lot of small cafes and a motorbike shop where you can rent a vintage motorbike to ride around the city.

The living costs here in the capital are just as low as in Luang Prabang and the coffee here is excellent with nearly every small cafe having a coffee machine of some kind.

We had a lot of thunder and a torrential downpour during the night but we have been lucky and we had no rain when we went out today to see some of the city. The main drag from the presidential palace to the Victory monument is modelled on the Champs Elysees with the presidential palace at one end and their Victory monument at the other but when I climbed the stairs up to the top of the monument that is when the similarity ended.

The last two floors were packed with stalls selling everything imaginable – enterprising to say the least!

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We flew in the afternoon to Kunming and will see what our “Triumphal Golden Horse” hotel is like. We were sad in one way to be leaving Laos which we have both really enjoyed.