Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng: The Little Bus That Absolutely Could Not

Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng: The Little Bus That Absolutely Could Not

After four days in Luang Prabang, we decided to catch a bus south, to Vang Vieng. An hour of start and stop driving through the mountains later, we sputtered to a halt on the side of the road. A man emerged from a nearby hut to help. Brandishing rain boots, official looking badges, and a machete, he joined our driver to try to figure out what was going on. The driver could speak absolutely no English (and I think he was a man of few words anyways), but it seemed that the box filled with liquid responsible for cooling down the engine was broken. There was a lot of poking and pulling and eventually it was decided that the best course of action was to pour bottles of water into the box, watch the water leak out of the bottom, curse, and then repeat. Every so often the water would explode like a volcano out of the car. We took this as an excellent sign. The man from the hut gave up. We entertained the possibility we’d have to move in with him.  Just when we were about to start fighting over who got the top bunk, three giant Land Rovers full of badass looking Thai guys pulled over! Someone did something right and we were all loaded back into the van. We were off! And then we weren’t. We pulled over and the pour water/watch leak/curse method started up again. We were very alone.  But then the Thai guys appeared again! But then they told us “God will help you.” and they left. Alone again. The driver took out the...
Learning to Drive a Scooter in Laos might be a Terrible Idea

Learning to Drive a Scooter in Laos might be a Terrible Idea

Over the course of our trip, Jessica and I had a lot of conversations about learning to ride a scooter – the far and above preferred mode of transportation in SE Asia. Without knowing how to drive one, we were stuck with the super touristy bus routes or having to haggle with a tuk-tuk driver. Our conversations usually went something like this: “Hey Jessica, we should learn how to ride a scooter today.” “Definitely. We should go rent one.” “Definitely.” And then we go buy a ticket for the bus because neither of us can actually work up the nerve. On our second day in Luang Prabang, the 22-year-old guys working at our hotel overheard our usual conversation about maybe renting a scooter to go the Kuang Si Waterfalls. Without missing a beat, they reassured us that this was both a great idea and incredibly easy. They even offered to give us a lesson and call the rental company. Maybe it was our sense of pride – or the fact that they were already dialing – but we finally decided to give it a try. In less than ten minutes, a giant red scooter was waiting for us in the driveway of the hotel. I handed over my passport and signed away my right to everything should anything go wrong. Because I had four minutes more scooter experience (a very brief one-road lesson in San Francisco) compared to Jessica’s zero, we decided that I would drive. The guys’ “lesson” consisted of them telling me how to turn it on, watching me go up and down the driveway, and then...