I don't want to write a book about this. I will just quote Lonely Planet:
"Many travellers have fallen victim to the Vientiane-Hanoi bus scam, in which agents -- often guesthouses -- sell tickets for 'air-con tourist coaches' that turn out to be rattletrap public buses or minivans packed to the limit with Vietnamese bringing cheap goods home from Laos. These trips can be mini-nightmares, including a long wait at the border, and some Vietnamese drivers treat Westerners extremely badly."
Yah, we got scammed:
First, we were brought separately by motorbike to the following dusty waiting area across from a construction site:
Then about 15 other white people arrived. We tried to join them, but were denied. One Swedish girl was sent to sit by us. The 14 other Europeans got on a bus, then ours came. We had to run down the freeway and JUMP on it, because they wouldn't put our bags underneath and they technically didn't even want to stop the bus for us. Ironically they stopped the bus for every other person they saw for the next 20 hours, trying to get them on the bus.
Here are the 'cheap goods': being brought across the border. Fake Lacoste. At the time we thought maybe they were being smuggled.
I kind of got the impression that they were going to put drugs in our bags for the border crossing. Because from my point of view, they were already smuggling these Lacoste items? Plus, why did they separate the three of us from the rest of the group? We couldn't tell, but they brought four huge bags onto the bus, cut them open with knives that flew dangerously close to our faces, and then put the contents of those bags under our seats and behind the back seat. (As we took these photos, one of the guys stole Summer's camera and shot a photo down her shirt. Then he kept tickling her feet.)
The driver stopped at restaurants, where everybody ignored us, and we finally forced the issue because we were STARVING and this is what we got: Rice. Fish Sauce Broth. Greens. The spoon in my bowl was placed there by the jerk from my previous post:
We stopped for two hours to get all the tires on the bus changed:
Somewhere along the way we heard a loud BAM! Right under Summer's feet. She looked out the window and saw a huge chunk of the bus hanging off it. I got off the bus to go look. The driver and several riders were trying to get this section of the bus to lay down again. Eventually they roped it down, and here's a picture of it later. I couldn't photo it at the time because the driver YELLED at me and STAMPED his foot for me to GET BACK ON THE BUS. (At least I think that's what he said, because nobody spoked Englishy). One hilarious note about that BAM! One of the jerks who was harrassing us jumped up and RAN for a tool and grabbed the teensiest, tiniest wrench I had ever seen to go and 'fix' the problem.
When we got to the border of Laos, a man took EVERYBODY's passports but ours. We were left to figure out what to do, and theirs were all processed in seconds. Then the bus left us, and we had to walk to Laos:
Thankfully the bus was waiting for us in Laos. At one point I needed the toilet and they wouldn't stop. A man rubbed his fingers together to say "money" and laughed at me. Then he said "number one?" A half hour later they pulled over to the side of the road and everybody got off. We had to pee behind a bulldozer. So like, why not stop earlier when I needed a toilet? If you're just going to stop anywhere. And behind the bulldozer there was no toilet. Here is a picture of another 'toilet' stop we made the next day.
They played a movie! I was so excited to hear English over the TV. But it was SAW IV. That's when I was convinced we were going to be murdered. Asians have a weird thing with watching slasher movies on the bus I have found. Weird. Anyway, Summer and I were the only Westerners (besides Helga the Swedish girl) on our bus. To the right is Helga, who was traveling alone. We were SO glad we were there so she didn't have to be on that hellish bus ride all by herself. 20 crappy hours later we arrived in Vientiane Laos. The three of us shared a room that night. It was $12 total:
Despite the poop-smeared walls, it was like a four-star hotel to us, and we slept from 6pm to 9am the next day.
We can laugh at all of it now, but that night, we had quite a scare. We even thought about getting off the bus and trying to flag down another one for a ride.