Sunday, March 27, 2011

i went to laos this past week for a few days in order to do a visa run.

laos' capital, vientiane, is about a ten hour bus ride from bangkok, and a round-trip ticket costs about $50. i arrived at the nongkai bus station near the thailand/laos border on wednesday morning at about 6am, and had crossed into laos and submitted my passport and visa documents at the thai embassy by 11am. i had to wait until 1pm the next day to pick up my passport, so i had plenty of time to do some sightseeing.

i spent most of the duration just wandering vientiane by foot and exploring as much as i could, and i just got a new camera so i took pictures galore as i meandered aimlessly. after i picked up my passport and new visa on thursday, i had almost until the evening to return to thailand to catch my bus from nongkai back to bangkok, so i decided to walk back to the thai/laos border. now, the point of the thai/laos border i was heading to is called "the friendship bridge," and it's about a good two hours walk to get there from vientiane. i was familiar with which direction the friendship bridge was located, but wasn't certain so i stopped a few locals along the way and asked about the route. each person told me it was too far to walk to, but i just smiled and said i'd be okay.

about an hour into my walk, i came across a stretch of embassies on this one particular road. when i spotted the japanese embassy, my heart immediately sank because i saw that the flag was at half-mast. my eyes started to water and as cars passed me by, i took a moment of silence for all the victims and those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. on a side note, it's interesting how the older i get, the more emotional and moved i become for particular things---i think i've finally somewhat become a man. so after my moment of silence, i decided to take a picture of the japanese embassy. at the very moment i had my camera aimed and ready to go, a motorcycle came and stopped right in front of me. now, this was pretty odd since i was the only person standing anywhere near the side of this busy road. i'm not sure which direction he came from, at what point he first saw me or how long he had been following me, but with my arms still holding my camera, i watched the young laotian guy hop off of his motorcycle and remove his helmet.

"where are you going?" he asked in english.
taken aback, i casually answered, "the thai/laos border," as i still gripped my camera.
"you're walking there? but it's too far."

at that point i was still concentrating on taking my picture, so i asked the guy to hold on a quick moment. after i put my camera down, i told him i had a lot of time and enjoy walking, and therefore i'd be alright until i reached the border. he persisted that it was too far to walk and then offered to take me there on his motorcycle, which then really threw me off. even though he seemed pretty sincere, i still wasn't too sure about this guy and his motives. since i look like such an obvious tourist, i was constantly bombarded with offers from tuk-tuk drivers since arriving in laos, and so i questioningly responded to the guy, "uh... sure okay. but, um, how much money do you want?" "it's free, i'll take you for free," he said.

since he said it was free and seemed pretty eager, i thought why not and hopped onto the backseat. the funny thing is that as he was driving, he kept turning his head to talk to me. i couldn't hear most of what he was saying with the loud wind and wanted to return his favor, so i told him that if it was okay with him, i'd like to stop somewhere and buy him a cool drink in order for us to converse. he said okay and we stopped at this old-school laotian store on the side of the thruway.

i bought us two soft drinks and we just shot the shit for about an hour as we watched cars and trucks pass by us on the dusty road. the guy's name was doh, and he was a 22 year old university student that's just two weeks shy from graduating. his english was also really good so we had no trouble understanding one another. at one point, the topic of religion came up and doh stated that he was a christian. this was surprising because the majority of laotians are buddhists. doh told me it was by chance that he was introduced to christianity nine months prior, and he seemed really content and happy about changing his faith. we talked about a wide range of topics before hopping back on his motorcycle and i felt extremely humbled and grateful for the experience. when we arrived at the friendship bridge, i thank him profusely and gave him a very small token of my appreciation with some american dollars. i would have loved to give him more, but unfortunately i have no money and couldn't afford to.

meeting doh was the best way to end my trip to laos, i couldn't have asked for anything better. i was planning to post a large amount of pictures up here from my laos excursion, but in the end, the following are the only ones that really matter.

thank you, doh.


  1. love this story. random encounters like this really makes life fun. hope you're having a nice time over there!

  2. i have a friend in bangkok now. he is teaching there. he is from the u.s.

    ill send him your blog. he travels too,

  3. i have glasses like yours too :-)

  4. nuttinbuhpearls7:50 PM

    wow bubbles!!! that's such a cool story...mann you aint never coming back.. :(

    but this story made me feel good about today.

  5. I am glad that you have fun/ enjoy life while following your fate. I truly wish you luck on your future endeavor.

  6. Friendship bridge indeed. Love it.