I booked a ticket via my hostel – Rock Backpacker Hostel in Vang Vieng to the Four Thousand Islands.
Having willingly just booked a 20+ hour sleeper bus, I already knew that I was getting myself into a long, uncomfortable journey.
I decided I just wanted to get straight there as my plans for Plain of Jars fell through and I hadn’t heard good things about Vientienne.
After the company tried to make me and some others sit on the floor of an already full to bursting minibus and eventually getting a replacement some 3 hours behind schedule, we embarked on the 5 hour journey to the Vientiane bus depot to change onto the night bus.
Upon arrival, I was told that I wasn’t allowed on the nightbus because the hostel had not given me a valid ticket. I didn’t have much money and I did’t want to pay the whole thing all over again.
Whilst I was trying to diplomatically (-ish) argue my way onto the bus, I turned around and saw three of my friends approaching and nearly sobbed a sigh of relief. I explained to them what had happened and they said one of the girls they were with had purchased two tickets as she didn’t want to risk sleeping next to some gross, smelly old man.
She agreed to let me on the bus with her ticket but it soon became clear she did not want me to share the bed with her.
Two of my friends let me sleep on their bed but they were full grown tall men and the beds were hardly big enough for two average sized people. So even with the aid of Valium, we weren’t really able to sleep and my friend ended up sleeping in the aisle.
Twenty-One of the longest hours of my life later, we arrived at the bus station to transfer to Pakse where we would get a boat to the islands.
By this point I was not surprised when we were told that our “all inclusive” tickets did not include this bus. So we had to pay again, we got less than five minutes down the road, and then the bus driver stopped and told us we had to wait. The bus was already full, and he made us wait for nearly an hour. He pulled out some plastic stools and made people sit in the aisles as they packed more and more people on the bus.
Fast forward to Pakse, which was just one large rubbish dump of a town. We again had to purchase new tickets for the boat.
Once we clambered into the boat, we were given plastic bowls. At first, I was very confused. I watched a dead chicken float past me in the water and wondered why the fuck I was in this god forsaken place. Everybody I had met said that the four thousand islands were amazing!
Shortly after we left Pakse, the boat started filling up with water, one of the locals guys grinned and mimed to us to start bailing the water out over the side.
I had visions of a scenario reminiscent to that of a certain Disney film…
There were no life jackets on the tiny little wooden boat. How we made it across that bloody river I will never know! We crashed into the bank of Don Dhet and I jumped out of that boat as if there were crocodiles giving chase.
My first impression of the island? Well, to be honest, it looked pretty shit! Scabby dogs wandered around, run down restaurants buzzed with flies. I couldn’t understand the hype and hoped that maybe it would get better.