30 Hours on a Bus

It was telling that the hostel- that makes a commission off of every ticket sold- actively discouraged us from taking the thirty hour bus from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. 

“I’ve been to Laos once,” said Tien, a hostel worker “On the bus. Luang Prabang is beautiful, but I will never go back”

And honestly it wasn’t all that bad. At first. 

The bus was a little stuffy, but the seats reclined almost all the way back and we had an iPod full of podcasts to listen to. We got a little stiff and our neighbors- and ourselves, I’m sure- got a little rank over the 30 hours of close confinement.

It didn’t get really bad until around hour 24, when we could almost taste the end of our journey. Although “taste” is probably the entirely wrong verb to use. The bus got a little warmer, the road got a little winder, and apparently that’s all it takes. 

Do you know what happens when people hear other people vomiting? Another life lesson I’ve learned on this trip- both on this bus and on the ferry from Koh Phangan- is that motion sickness is basically contagious. As soon as one person starts heaving, everyone else does too. 

The sounds- the wretching, the splashing- are bad, but what really got to me was the smell. The pervasive smell of equal parts cheese, airplane food, rot, and some sour note I haven’t really put a word to yet. At first, I’m pretty sure it was mostly finding its way into bags. Until it wasn’t and you could hear the sloshing.

Daniel slept through all of it. I can’t forgive him for it.

You learn a lot of universal truths traveling like: children everywhere laugh the same way; no matter the brand or composition, bug repellent never really works; people everywhere are fundamentally good and inevitably annoying; and motion sickness is very, very real.



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