This ride was a winding journey through the mountains of souther nChina and northern Laos. The bus was not empty, but very roomy, and I enjoyed the views from a double sleeper bed. The border crossing was straight-forward, and probably took one and a half hours all up. I spent some of that time inquiring into an older American’s perspective on his nations foreign policy (he started it!). Safe to say his perspective wildly differed from my own, and from one of his countrymen who approached me after to make sure I know that the older man’s views were not representative. His views were, however, probably shared by the maker’s of an unbelievably crap military action movie that was playing for too long during the bus ride.
I didn’t pay too much attention to the movie though, with the scenery being quite amazing. Village after village of wooden and bamboo huts on stilts set mongst dense, dense forest (full of unexploded ordinance from the US’ ‘secret war’). Every hut was also accompanied by a satellite dishes whose metal construction contrasted with the more permeable feel of the house. Laos was definitely an order of magnitude less infrastructure than in China – this was the main road, and it was pretty bad. And much of it was even less developed than what I saw in India. But apparently the north-south highway link with China will soon be complete and everything will change as Laos hosts the main road links between all of SE Asia.
Other sights worth sharing included the teenage children on the side of the road playing the mating game. This involves pairs of girls and boys throwing a (bamboo) ball back and forth with one hand. It was quite surreal to see them playing this dignified and beautiful by the road-side in brightly coloured clothes, their spare hand holding an umbrella to shield them from sun.
The other less savoury sight was a road-side market selling fried rats and guinea pigs. I actually thought it was ok, as why wouldn’t you eat them. But one of the fellow vegetarians on the bus was pretty distraught at our bus driver buying a large, aggressive guinea pig in a bamboo cage, and slab of meat from the leg of a small pig then leaving it on the floor in the middle of the bus.