4/16/18: Making Friends On The Street

The tuk-tuk drove us to catch our night buses around 1 am. There were six of us leaving. Four were going south, and two were going north.

The system was really funny— the bus driver would call the tuk-tuk driver to let him know it was close, and then the tuk-tuk driver would take us to the location of the bus.

He first dropped the south-bound people off first. Just before she got off, this one Spanish girl told me to take the number 29 bus once I get to Vientiane since the bus station there is quite far from the city center.

Then he drove about 5 minutes to where the north-bound bus would be coming. We waited in the tuk-tuk.

A few minutes later, a bus stopped just up the road. The tuk-tuk driver motioned to us to walk to the bus.

It was a sleeper bus, and we each had to share a bed with someone. I was placed next to a random lady who was already sleeping and taking up most of the bed. I nudged her and she moved a tiny bit. The rest of the bus ride I was squished next to her, trying to get into a position where I could actually sleep.

I eventually dozed off and woke up at 6:45 am to the sounds of people shuffling around, getting off the bus.

I checked Google Maps to see where we were.We were in Vientiane. Having only slept about 4 hours, I was in a daze. I stepped off the bus and was immediately bombarded by taxi drivers asking me if I wanted a ride. I told them no, since I wanted to take the public bus and save some money.

I looked around but saw no signs of public buses. I walked through the waiting area and out to the front, and still saw nothing. That’s when I spotted Quinn, a girl I had met in Don Det and then again on the Thakhek motorcycle loop.

She told me she was headed to Vang Vieng today and needed to get to the north bus terminal. I told her I was heading into the city. And neither of us had any idea how to get to where we needed to go.

I decided to go back into the waiting area and ask someone if they knew about the public buses. The information desk wasn’t open yet, so I went up to a random travel desk and asked the guy behind the counter. He told me I just needed to wait out front and a bus would come in about 15 minutes.

For the next 30 minutes, there was one tuk-tuk driver who would relentlessly approach me and Quinn to try to get us into his tuk-tuk. We kept telling him no, and he kept pushing. First he asked for 60,000 kip ($7) each, then he brought it down to 40,000, then 30,000.

Then, out of nowhere, a guy stepped out of a car and told Quinn he was going to the north bus terminal with another guy— it would be 30,000 kip. I am assuming she had talked to him earlier, because she seemed to recognize him. She got in the car, and I was alone.

I waited another 20 minutes and was about to give up and get a cab when a “public bus” aka a large tuk-tuk came around— the annoying tuk-tuk driver from before told me that it was going into the city for 5,000 kip.

I got on, and we rode for about 30 minutes to the central bus terminal. I was still about a mile away from the hostel, but I decided to just walk there since I had made such an effort to save money already that it didn’t make sense to spend money on a cab now.

I got to my hostel– Khaw Hoom— all sweaty and tired, checked in, and went downstairs for breakfast. I got fruit and bread. You know… the usual.

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I blogged for a bit and then decided to walk around town and see some of the main attractions. First I got a large coffee from Black Canyon, a SE Asia coffee chain, and then walked to That Dam, which is basically just a monument in the middle of a roundabout.

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That Dam

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I walked further north to Patuxai, Vientiane’s version of the Arc de Triomphe. It was pretty beautiful, I have to admit.

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I needed to get some antiseptic and bandages for my motorcycle wounds, so I started my hunt for a pharmacy. However, given that it was New Years Day, every single pharmacy I passed was closed. And I passed at least 5.

Finally, I found one that was open about 20 minutes later. I bought both the antiseptic and bandages for about $2, which is pretty cheap if you ask me. The pharmacist also spoke really good English, which I was happy about.

I was getting hungry, so I decided to go back to a place that I had spotted on my way to Patuxai called Vegetarian In The Golden Age (seriously, who comes up with these names??!)

I walked in and was greeted by a female monk. It seemed the whole place was staffed by female monks, which I found pretty cool.

I ordered Bun Cha Gio— vermicelli noodles with fried spring rolls.

It was ready about 10 minutes later. However, I unfortunately didn’t realize it would come sprinkled with peanuts. I told the waitress that I was allergic to peanuts and if they could please remove them, but she didn’t understand.

The owner/manager came over with a new bowl and started removing the peanuts from the noodles and putting the same noodles in the new bowl. I think she just thought I didn’t like peanuts because she picked off a few and then assumed that was good enough. I tried my best to explain that it’s not just a like/dislike thing, it’s an allergy thing, but I don’t think she quite got it.

She left, and I continued to just pick out as many peanut bits as I could. Another lady saw that I was meticulously removing the bits of peanut from the noodles, told the manager, and the manager came back over with a fresh set of noodles. She then helped pick out the rest of the peanut bits from the vegetables. I was grateful, but I do kind of wish they had brought me a new meal instead of making me pick out the peanuts.

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I’m lucky that I’m not deathly allergic to peanuts because this would not have worked with someone with a severe allergy.

I eventually had a semi-peanut-free bowl of food, which I promptly scarfed down in a matter of minutes.

I left, walked back to the hostel, and napped for the next two hours.

I woke up feeling a bit more alive.

I really wanted to check out the New Year celebrations, but I needed to make friends first. I walked out into the common area, but there was only one girl there and she looked busy.

I decided to just walk around and see what happens. First I walked to a hostel that I knew was more of a “party” one, thinking that I could go in, sit down, and maybe meet some people. However, I didn’t really see anyone inside when I walked past it.

I went across the street to the mini mart to get a drink since I was thirsty.

When I walked out, I saw a group of three guys headed in the same direction I was.

At some point, we were walking side by side. I asked the guy next to me,

“Are you guys going to check out some of the New Years parties?”“No, we are just walking around for a bit I think. And you?”

He had a pretty heavy German accent.

“Yeah, same. I just wanted to see what was going on.”
“Do you know where to go or are you just wandering around?”
“I was thinking of going to the river since I think there is stuff going on there, but I really have no idea!”

We kept chatting for a few more minutes. I introduced myself to him and the other two guys— their names were Adrian (German), Falko (German), and Mateus (Brazilian)— and eventually we hit a crossroads where we had to decide if we wanted to head to the river or another part of the city.

I asked them if I could join them on their little adventure, and they told me of course. This was my first time randomly making friends with people on the street, and I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself. I feel like I’ve come a long way as a solo traveler.

We headed to the river, getting doused in water along the way. There was a HUGE party/festival going on at the riverbank, with tons of food/drink vendors, carnival games, and a massive pool/splash party with a DJ and everything.

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We stood around and observed for a while; it was fascinating to watch. So many people in matching fruit-printed outfits, spraying each other with water guns and pouring water buckets on each other, eating meat on skewers, and drinking can after can of Beerlao.

We got some beers and sat down to chill for a bit.

Once we were chilled out, we walked back into town to freshen up before dinner.

Back at my hostel, I blogged for a bit and then took a second nap since I was feeling tired again.

I woke up around 7:40, just in time to meet the others for dinner. The group was the three guys, me, and a new guy named Jean Luc, a South African who teaches English in Hanoi. He and Mateus had met at their hostel earlier.

We went to an Indian place called Namaste and I got the veg thali set. It was A LOT of food, and everything was really good. I need to go to India, just for the food… I’m obsessed.

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We walked down the street to the splash party. It was essentially a huge outdoor area with a DJ in the front and people dancing on tables and in the street. Along the sides were a bunch of beer/food vendors. We all got some more beers and danced for a few hours with locals and tourists alike.

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At 11:20, the party shut down so we moved a few blocks over to a bar.

We stayed there talking, dancing, and drinking until that bar shut down around 3 am. It was a lot of fun, but I was quite happy to go home by the end. I was going off 5 hours of sleep and I was very legitimately tired.

Jean Luc walked me home, even though he really didn’t need to, and I got back just as the hostel guy was locking up the front door. I have no idea what I would have done if the door was locked, so I’m really glad I got there when I did.


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