Stray Travel’s Bus Tour – Long Thaang Pass – Day 4: Vieng Xai to Phonsavan
Depart: 10:00am – Vieng Xai; Depart: 10:45am – Sam Neua – Arrive: 06:4pm – Phonsavan
Check out Pathok Cave, Plain of Jars and then end up in Phonsavan at the MAG Information Centre.
Ahh, day four of Stray Travel’s Long Thaang Bus Tour and neither of us wanted to leave Vieng Xai. We had both had an awesome sleep in a very comfortable bed. It would have been nice to be able to hang out and visit some more caves. Alas, we had to leave early. That’s the thing with being on a tour, you have to go when you get told to go.
Even though Stray Travel is a hop-on hop-off bus company the Long Thaang Pass doesn’t run often enough to be able to stay in one place for just a few days. At the time when we took the tour, the bus trip was running once every two weeks. Vieng Xai was good, but I don’t think we could hang out there for a whole two weeks.
Back to day four. Up early with no breakfast. No food at all, not even a cup of tea. Bah. We headed to Sam Neua with the promise of a baguette lady in the local morning markets. She would hopefully be able to make us all a baguette or two for breakfast and for lunch for that day. Alas, she was not to be found. I was getting a little antsy by this stage. It was about 10am and I hadn’t eaten a thing. We bought a bunch of bananas to get us through.
Pro tip: Bring a large bag of nuts and dried fruits and crackers with you on this bus trip (and any other) as you will get hungry and hygienic food seems scarce.
Even though we couldn’t find the baguette lady, the walk through the morning markets in Sam Neua was lovely. So much fresh produce to look at, touch and taste. Leaving the Sam Neua markets we were headed to a guest house in town where we all finally got breakfast and a packed lunch for the day. Much to my excitement, a bunch of Estonian guys rocked up on their motorbikes. They had bought motorbikes (around $350 USD) in Vietnam and were going to ride their way through Laos. It would be a hard and tiring ride. All those curvy, winding, pot holey roads.
Time to get on the mini bus. Luckily the Stray Mini bus is comfortable. We are both a bit sick of it. Everyone else seems fine. Perhaps they have more experience with sitting on tour buses. I really wished we could have stayed in Vieng Xai longer. Just one more day to see more of the caves and to be able to learn more.
We stopped in a little town and used a restaurant’s table and chairs for our lunch stop. We brought lunch from Vieng Xai but we could have bought lunch here. The town seemed nice and we bought a couple of drinks to go with our lunch. While we were eating we met the Estonian motorbike crew again.
Many more hours on the mini bus and we finally reached Phonsavan. What a nice looking town! We checked into our hotel and went straight to the MAG Information Centre. MAG is the Mines Advisory Group and is involved with removing unexploded bombs in Laos among other things. We didn’t want to miss the Info Centre as we were unsure what time it closed.
For future reference, the MAG Information Centre is open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday to Sunday 4pm to 8pm. Entrance is free and they show free documentaries throughout the afternoon and early evening about the bombing in Laos, the current situation and the work MAG is doing. Very educational.
Feel free to donate as much or as little as you can to MAG. If you donate $10 USD you can get an awesome shirt to wear back home. Help advertise the good that MAG is doing in Laos.
We really recommend visiting the MAG office in Phonsavan. We learnt a lot about Laos and what the Lao people went through and still go through. Thank you MAG for your work in Laos.
The MAG Information Centre was quite an emotional experience. The current situation is extremely upsetting. There are believed to be around 10 unexploded weapons for each Laotian citizen. People, frequently either farmers working in their fields or children, are still being killed or maimed.
After the MAG centre we went back to our room to have a little rest. For dinner, the group met up out front of the hotel for dinner.
Tonight, we were going to dine at apparently one of the best Indian restaurants in Laos. Yeah right. We were a little doubtful but the food was totally glorious. So tasty and fresh. Nisha Restaurant is the name. Check it out when you stay overnight in Phonsavan.
Unfortunately, a motorbike accident right out front of the restaurant ended our dinner abruptly. Hopefully everyone came out of it ok. A woman sitting side saddle on the back of a motorcycle hit the bitumen head first and wasn’t wearing a helmet. Within seconds her face had swollen up dramatically. Wear your helmet.
Total Expenditure For The Day:
Last Night’s Accommodation – Naxay II Guesthouse in Vieng Xai: 70,000 Kip
Lao Lao and Bamboo Rat from the night before (20000 Kip each): 40,000 Kip
Bought a bunch of bananas at Sam Neua Markets – 5,000 Kip
Breakfast and Lunch that we bought in Sam Neua:
3 x Bread, 1 x fried noodle chicken, 1 x lao salad, total: 79,000 Kip
2 x Drinks at the lunch stop – 10,000 Kip
Donation to MAG: (each to their own)
Dinner was at an Indian Restaurant – Total: 76,000 Kip
Malai Kofta – 16000 Kip
Channa Masala – 15000 Kip
2 x Butter Naan – 14000 Kip
4 x Masala Tea – 24000 Kip
Salt Lassi – 7000 Kip
Tanya is a TEFL teaching farmer’s daughter and writes most of the posts. She is also an experienced IT person, a fantastic organiser and an awesome cook. She left a free-beer-providing IT job in a brewery for life on the road. That is commitment!