Another long day in transit - the bus trip from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. It may be less than 400km but it was scheduled for 9 hours, and the word was that this was optimistic. I hadn't been able to get a ticket for the "VIP bus" (i.e. a normal bus) - and haven't yet gone sufficiently native to enquire as to whether there was space available on a stool in the aisle, standing in a stairwell, hanging out a door or on the roof (all of which I've seen here, the first three in vehicles I've been in) - so was booked on a minibus.
My objective was fairly basic - get to the other end in one piece. I thought it was going to fall apart at the first hurdle because I thought the bus left at 8 and the tuk-tuk pick-up circled so many places in the town that we got there at 7.59, but it was actually supposed to be an 8.30 departure (and ended up being more like 8.50). Bags went on the roof (but no motorcycles, something I've also seen here), and there was a substantial crack across the windscreen, but I snaffled a seat and it didn't seem excessively crowded - at first. What I didn't know was that this bus also stopped at random places en route to pick up locals and their assorted goods (including bags of food for markets, although no chickens), and that there always seemed to be room for one more, somewhere - I think we peaked at 31 people on what was nominally a 22-seater bus.
Progress was made, slowly but steadily, through countryside more mountainous than Wednesday - a couple of climbs and descents which must have been in the order of 1000m, and almost continuously winding for the first 150km out of Luang Prabang. Stopped at the bottom of the first big descent to have water sprayed on the bus; I probably could have done without hearing that it was to cool the brakes down (the driver seemed more cautious on the second descent). The numbers gradually thinned out in the second half of the trip, and the terrain got easier, although the overtaking got no less crazy (of the several hundred overtaking manouevres on this trip, the number that I would have done myself could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand). I was almost relieved when we hit a traffic jam coming into Vientiane. Ended up about an hour late.
It's beautiful country, but I'm glad I don't have to do any more long-haul bus trips like this - from Vientiane it's a short hop across the border to pick up the train on the Thai side.