Sunday, June 05, 2005

Route 13

Carving though the Lao mountains down Rt 13 must be one of the prettiest bus trips anywhere. The distant green hills don’t roll so much as dance, the limestone jutting up sharp above the deep valleys as if someone had decided to combine Ireland, Thailand, and New Zealand into one place. To enhance the postcard effect, accommodating locals have built their thatch roofed homes above the valley and along the road. So after Rt 13 climbs up through a great stretch of undulating green, you look back at the coiled road behind you, wrapped hard around the belly of the mountain and take a blurry picture from the bumpy bus.

It’s all almost enough to make you forget how mortally dangerous Rt 13 can be. The problems go far beyond the annoyance of a laptop sliding across your lap each time the bus makes one of its hairpin turns, but I best mention that one first before it gets lost in the list. The hairpin turns cause all manner of difficulties. The constant, looming possibility of careening off the side of the road is sure to bother some. I wasn’t worried about that because I was asleep. I had reclined my seat a few inches and dozed off when suddenly someone punched me square in the temple. The right-cross had been fired by the bus itself, which by taking a hard turn had whipped my slumbering head against the window. For reasons sufficient to the bus’ designer, there is a hard plastic bar along the window at temple-level. There are no mirrors on the bus so I don’t know yet if I have a black eye.

There are sliding windows just below the black-eye bar on the side of the bus. The Lao man in front of me likes to stick his head outside the window—it just fits—and vomit onto Rt 13. It is a curvy, bumpy, windy ride and if it doesn’t get your head or your stomach maybe someone will blow up your bus. That’s happened a few times too so some people don’t like to make the nine hour ride between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. But Rt 13 has much to offer; the mountains, the thatch-roofed houses…well I guess that’s basically it. But as I’ve said there are plenty of distractions. I’d mention some more but the damn laptop won’t stop sliding and my friend in the fourth row has his head outside again.


Post a Comment

<< Home