Our transportation issues continue when arranging transportation from Vientiane to Thakhek where the trek and kayaking trip through the Tham Kong Lor begins. The public bus sounds horrible, a long ride on a chicken type bus that stops for anything and everything and no air-conditioning. There is one VIP bus that is supposedly air-conditioned and makes fewer stops but it doesn’t leave Vientiane until 1 p.m. and often arrives much later than the posted 6 p.m.
Based on the travel forums, even worse is trying to get a bus from Thakhek to Pakse. With no real scheduled stops on the better buses that pass through, one blogger suggests standing by the highway and trying to wave down and get a seat on one of the buses heading south.
Faced with bad bus choices we decided to try our folks at Green Discovery to see if we could get a car and driver at this late date. It’s Saturday afternoon and we want to leave on Monday. After much discussion with the young assistant, explaining that we want transportation to Thakhek and then on to Champasak (45 minutes south of Pakse) two days later, he makes some calls and says the regular drivers are all busy but he knows a guy that can do the trip.
We make a deal and pay in cash; this seems to be an off the books trip. In the process he decides he wants to come with us. I’m not exactly sure why as his English is OK but not great. He says he may want to try to be our guide for the trek and kayaking trip we have planned with Green Discoveries in Thakhek.
Monday Morning – Dive to Thakhek
Our new friend shows up at our Vientiane hotel at 8 a.m. as promised. The driver is proud of his new Hyundai minivan, set up for comfort with just two large seats per row. The third seat between the two is turned down and used as a console. Tons of legroom. This is about as good as it gets in Laos.
The drive to Thakhek was long and tedious. The roads continue to be rough with numerous sections with potholes and other deterioration. The drive took us 7 hours including a stop for lunch. I don’t know how the public busses could do this route in less than 8 hours.
The drive out of Vientiane follows the river and is flat and developed for most of the way. Along the last part the terrain becomes more mountainous and scenic.
Two Days Later – Drive to Pakse
The road south from Thakhek is in much better condition than the one coming from the capital. It took us 4.5 hours to Pakse with a 45 minute stop for lunch.
Although leaving Thakhek in early November the landscape is dry, it becomes much greener as we head south. Threatening rain, we could see it raining in the distance but it never rained on us.
Our new friend planned a stop for lunch in Napong where we could taste their famous grilled chicken. Fresh hot with great flavor this is most definitely a free range bird that’s done lots of running. Served with a mortar and pestle prepared spicy green bean salad and sticky rice. Lean and chewy meat, but a fun lunch.
Early November, 2018
For links to all the posts in this series see the Laos/Cambodia page.