The Laotian Bus Driver Part 1

Three hours after we departed the popular tourist destination of Luang Prabang in the north of Laos, our bus broke down.

We were on our way to Vientiane and were supposed to arrive early the next morning.

It was at night and we were in wild  mountainous country.

The road was completely dark.

On either side was a wall of dense and formidable jungle, a mad tangle of vines and trees and ferns silhouetted under star light. There was no moon.

Suddenly there was a piercing shrieking noise and the bus glided to the side of the road and came to an abrupt stop.

 What happened afterwards remains engraved in my memory as a remarkable event but this is doubly so given my present circumstances of being confined to Australia – and wondering whether travel, as I once knew it and took for granted, will ever happen again.

Travel unplanned and full of surprises both enjoyable and far less so……

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The Laotian Bus Driver Part 2

It was an extraordinary night and it was about to get more extraordinary.

Marooned in the mountains of northern Laos thanks to a bus breaking down and the driver hitching a  ride into a large town and with the temperature plummeting, we huddled inside the bus and waited. The hours passed and then the driver appeared with a spare drive shaft and slid under the bus. The Laotians blissfully asleep, the tourists got out and looked under the bus, only half believing what they saw….

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War Junk

(Originally written in 2003 in Laos/recently revised)

I met Harry in a basic ‘restaurant’ in what was then the small town Xan Neuau in the east of Laos, close to the Vietnamese border. He was a big man with short blond hair parted in the middle, blue eyes, and a square jaw. He was a little overweight but certainly not fat.

He was sitting on his own at a rickety wooden table near the open front of a local bar/restaurant sipping a beer and gazing at the traffic: bikes, buffalo pulled carts, a few motor bikes, the occasional motor car.

It was near sunset and the jungle covered mountains on the horizon had turned a deep green, almost black.

I sat down at his table because I didn’t have a choice. The other tables, further back inside, were occupied by locals. We started chatting.

Little did I know that I was going to be there for much of the night, listening to one of the most disturbing stories I had ever heard from any human being……

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