Moments of Misery: The “VIP” bus from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

Most of our posts on this blog will be happy recollections of some moments of our trip. But life on the road won’t always be fun. We feel like we’d like to share some of these moments of misery too. (OK, and vent a little about them too…)

Our knees were being crushed by the large recline of the seats in front of us, the large incline of our own seats meant we were leaning far back , our butts almost sliding off our seats, the air conditioning was blowing the tiniest wisp of air in 95 degree heat, and the curvy, steep road seemed to stretch on past the horizon. Thirty minutes into the eight hour bus ride, and we were wondering just exactly what we had gotten ourselves into.

We had heard that the stretch of road traveling from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang, Laos was not easy. We had heard it was rough, and curvy, and that you might just get sick. We had even heard that there were zero good ways to avoid this and you had to be prepared. So, we were trying to psych ourselves up for a difficult trip. Even so, the reality was pretty miserable.

We booked the “VIP” bus, and even confirmed that it would have AC. We arrived at the bus station 20 minutes before departure and the bus was already mostly full. Our assigned seats were taken, and rather than argue with the German couple that already looked like they weren’t having a great day, we just took two nearby available seats. These seats were most likely available because of two major flaws: the two seats in front of them were stuck in a reclining position, so there wasn’t much legroom, and the seats themselves were also stuck in a reclining position, so you were forced to sit up straight with no neck support or lean far back the whole time. We apologized to the couple sitting behind us for crushing their knees, but they realized there was nothing we could do.

The temperature outside was hot but not unbearably so, but when we first boarded the bus it was 10 degrees warmer on there since the bus wasn’t on and there was no breeze. When the bus started up, we breathed a sigh of relief as it sounded like the AC kicked in…. but then we realized that there was barely any air blowing. You could see people up and down the aisles fiddling with the vents, but the effect was very minimal.

The road from Vang Vieng to Vientiane mostly went over narrow mountain roads, which meant that most of the trip was spent with the hulking bus swaying back and forth. This made it a bit hard to read for long stretches of time without getting car sick, especially since there wasn’t much airflow going.

We heard multiple people make the same remark we were thinking to ourselves: If this is the VIP bus, I’d hate to see what the regular bus is like! We haven’t been as upset about a bus ride since our adventures with the buses in the Peloponnese in Greece.

For all the complaining we have done in this post though, it could have been a lot worse. The bus made it without getting in an accident, and we didn’t actually get sick. The arrival was basically on time, and none of our possessions were lost. Still, we hope it’s a while before we have such a bus ride again!