While most travellers head north in Laos, we had headed south. The only real possibility of crossing into Vietnam was at a place called Lao Bau. But to get there we had to take our four hour long longboat trip to where the river met the tarred road. Our guide needed to head back to Vientiane in the north and we needed to head south to Savannakhet where the buses headed to the border. All you need do, is wave down the bus and away you go.
Every little bit of information that we had about getting into Vietnam from here said that you could get a VIP bus to Hue. Non-stop and through the day. Nice. What the literature didn't say was that it left on Mon, Wed and Fri at 1000 sharp! Well, we arrived at the bus station at 1500! Damn. That left the local bus at 2200. Between 1500 and when we left, one enterprising Laos had a little hotel on the bus station. You got a room only until 2200. After that it was check out! Although it had a slightly seedy feel, it did the job brilliantly. A shower, a meal and a place to pass a little bit of time watching the Laos world go by.
But getting to the actually border was an event in itself. The bus was a combi. Yep, part people carrier, part cargo. Too bad if you were last on the bus. You had to sit, sleep on bags of rice! We thought that with seats we had done well! We couldn't have been more wrong! The seats were designed for the Laos/Vietnamese which meant that both our legs didn't quite fit. And the seats where too low to actually rest your head against. It seemed a little bit like the Universe putting us in our place after our weren't-we- lucky-to-get-a-seat-while-they-didn't thought.
Part of getting to the border was an enforced stop at 0300. Even though it was so uncomfortable, we did manage to sleep a bit. But it was with some trepidation that we were rudely awakened and told to get off the bus. We had no idea that this was the last town before the border post one kilometre away!
"You get off! You get off!"
"What? Where are we meant to go? What time do we leave?"
"I think that meant that the bus leaves tomorrow sometime, then?"