It's a new country, a new language and a new currency. Other than that, not a great deal has changed. Just like Vietnam, it's still communist, there's always something on fire and without fail, there's always a chicken knocking about.
The bus ride was never ending, in total, it took us over 27 hours to get here. For 24 of those, it was raining and it didn't take long for the bus to start leaking; just when we thought things couldn't get any worse. But this is Asia and obviously it's not going to stop there. Approximately 60km outside of Vientiane, where the bus was due to stop, we came to a shuddering halt. The bus had broken down and because no one spoke English, there was no indication as to whether the bus was actually going to start again. After half an hour, the back seats of the bus had been ripped out by the driver and there were Vietnamese men leaping in and out of the bus, and even more coming out from underneath. I couldn't work out if they were mechanics or stowaways. At this point we tried, to no prevail, to hitchhike the rest of the journey. Thankfully there was no need and we eventually got back on the road an hour or so later. By that point everyone had given up timekeeping and in the grand scheme of things, it was a minor delay.
My first experience of Laos has been a rainy one. It's been fairly consistent since we arrived which has made sight-seeing difficult. I hope this isn't the start of the 'monsoon season' that I've heard so much about. In between rain storms, myself, George, and two other English guys; one Manchunian and one Liverpudlian, went to visit the Buddha Park. Beside the Mekong River, overlooking the Thai border, are 200 stone Buddhas, each slightly different to the last. There was a lot of northern-monkey and southern-fairy mickey-taking that kept us amused for most of the day and it wasn't long before the rain had cornered us into one of the riverside bars. That evening we went to visit the night market which seemed to be the liveliest place in town at that time of day. A few pints down, it was suggested I should try a chickens foot. The last item on Lonely Planets' list of things to try in Asia. The duck embryos in Vietnam were ok and often became a late-night snack, but chicken feet...they really are as bad as they look and sound!
The thought of yet another bus tomorrow is soul destroying. The bike is definitely missed even with the persistent rain. George and I are leaving our northern friends and heading for Vang Vieng, made famous by the tubing that goes on there. I'm hoping for some better weather but it's not looking very promising. I can see a few more afternoons being spent stranded in bars. Not ideal for the tan but on the plus side, my snooker game has improved dramatically.