July 29, 2007
Our Vietnamese Dong was running out so it was time to leave. I had researched how to get out from Sapa and get into Laos. There was a new border crossing at a place called Tay Tran, 15 kilometres south west of Dien Ben Phu.
Our mission now was to get to Dien Ben Phu, and there was only two ways from Sapa. By jeep at $200US, or take a local sardine bus at $10US each. We chose the latter.
So at 8am the next day, we were dropped off at a side street to wait with a small group of Veitnamese.The small bus arrived, our gear stowed on the roof under a tarpaulin and we left Sapa. It would take an incredible 10 hours to reach Den Ben Phu, less than 400 kilometres away.
If you have seen the Sapa images already, it may have alluded to the fact that the mountain passes are dirt roads. Also at this time of year it rains a considerable amount. There were times on this trip that I thought we were not going to make it at all.
During one mountain climb the bus got stuck. The driver would reverse and then attempt to make a hard run at the mud bog that caused the tyres to slip. Nope…didn’t make it that time.
He would reverse and try again. After four attempts, everyone were ordered off and the driver and another man tried to get the bus through the muddy patch. Our group walked further up the mountain and waited. Eventually, the bus struggled its way up to collect us.
That evening we crawled into Dien Ben Phu and we stayed overnight at a hotel just opposite the bus station. We would take the next bus to Laos. When we awoke at 5am, and went to the bus station the staff informed us that there was no bus today; only one every second day. So we thought well lets take a motorbike taxi instead.
Two motorbike taxis arrived and cheerfully took us to the border. It was a beautiful ride, and reminded me of the Easy Rider Tour some two weeks back.
At the border the staff were just waking up. The Vietnamese border guards checked only our day packs, and stamped us out of the country. Now it was a case of walking down a mountain road (about 1 kilometre) and we were in Laos.
The Laotian Customs officers processed our documents (and requested an arbitrary weekend fee of $1US) and now we were on our own. The next township was 30 kilometres away, Sam and I were on foot, and it was already about 30° Our only salvation was to hitch-hike, and fortunately one truck went past and he helped us out. He us to Muang Khua and we stayed there overnight.