First Impressions – Laos
Once we had paid the hefty $40 dollar visa fee to enter Laos, Martin and I needed to find transport to Vientiane. It was dark and a light rain was beginning to fall, so avoiding the tuk tuk touts, I walked over to what I thought were minibuses waiting to pick up locals. Walking up to two men seated at the front of one vehicle, I asked the driver if he could take us into town. He shook his head and responded in a way that was unintelligible.
I took a few Thai Baht bills out of my pocket and then proceeded to ask again. He and the other man looked nervous – I realized that they had not seen Martin, and that perhaps they were nervous about taking a lone woman into town at that time of night. Motioning Martin over, I repeated the request to be taken into town only to be told “No taxi.”
Finally the driver relented and it was only when we were pulling way from the border that we realized that he was not a taxi driver; we had actually scored a lift with a local who was just minding his own business, talking to his son in the front seat of their family van.
“Where you go?”
I was having trouble remembering the names of any landmarks or roads from the Lonely Planet, but as I had been in Laos less than a year before, I thought I remembered the name of the big shopping centre in the middle of the city.
“Please take us to Talat Sao.” I said.
“Ah Talat Sao.”
He started up the car. Martin and I were on the edge of seats, realizing that we were entrusting ourselves to these two men, in a country we had only entered minutes before. We watched impatiently, fearing we might be robbed, or that the guy might demand double the money he had been shown. Did he really know where we wanted to go? Had I pronounced it right?
Half an hour later, we arrived at a building festooned with blue fairy lights, which was in fact Talat Sao. The car stopped, the driver got out to open the boot, so that we could get our luggage. I tried to pay the driver and instead of grabbing the money, he shook his head humbly to indicate that no money was necessary. He didn’t want any money for his efforts, he had simply taken pity on us and done what we had asked. In the end we forced him to take the money, departing with numerous thank yous. We stumbled, jet-lagged, toward the backpacker part of town, discussing the amazing welcome we had received reflecting on the fact that this would never have happened in our home countries.
For more pictures please check out the link “Pics – Laos” in the upper right hand corner of the page.