Magun's Compass
Learn from the Travel Experiences of Others

To Savannakhet....
A World away from Vientiane.

"The roads are not that good... and we have more hotel in Luang Prabang.... It is the old capital, more interesting for you", I was told when when I enquired about the road to Savannakhet.

Fifty people, eight novice monks, and some chickens cramped on the back of an old, olive-green truck with only one headlight and bald tyres. The high, wooden sides were braced together with rope, that doubled as a handrail. The sealed road had finished before the end of the bus-journey; the lorry now bumped along, leaving a cloud of red dust behind us.

A little girl was sick in her lap, and began to cry.... I think I would have been sick too, if I had eaten the chicken feet, and drank the unfiltered water that was coaxed into her.

At the frequent village stops, children cried out 'Soviet'. A Western face was rare on these roads, even the Russians on business usually flew.

Queen for a day. Before sunset, I was transferred to another lorry. This one was a petrol tanker, with a wooden frame on top. Six large sacks of rice were strapped within the frame, and 13 of us tried to keep our balance and hold on to our luggage on top of the sacks.

'Highly Inflammable' was clearly written on the back of the lorry, but I though no further than the bags of rice. A leaky radiator slowed us down; the driver had to stop at river crossings to top it up with murky brown water.

Sometimes, one beam of light would pierce the darkness, but the rumble and rattling that followed announced more than a motorbike.

I arrived in Savannakhet covered in red dust, with hair that felt as though I had slept on a beach for a week.

Were people staring at me because I was foreign, or because I was covered in a filthy, soil red?

"You have come from Vientiane by road? That is very interesting..." Vasily Poolshivalov looked me over.

He worked for the United Nations and said that there were twelve Russian soil scientists in town, and two or three Hungarians.

"But I theenk you are the first Englishman. And to come by lorry....very interesting."

He had waited 20 days for permission to come to Savannakhet, "And I am Russian!"

I felt like saying that I was English, and had waited 30 minutes for the bus.


On the piss with a bundle of Lao Kip to spend.
They were guests of honour in the town's New Year celebrations.

Asia Index

Nomadic Gatherings - Travels in Asia and Australia

Travel on trains and buses in Asia, then jump into cars with complete strangers in Australia and New Zealand as Michel introduces you to a collection of characters that bring Nomadic Gatherings to life.

If you can't afford to buy a copy of Nomadic Gatherings, the chapters are slowly being made available online - for free.

You may even decide that it really is worth having a hard copy in your hands; a useful read for those long bus journeys being written about, and for endless waits at ferry ports.

Nomadic Gatherings - Online Chapters.

Find out more about Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, The Middle East, and The Americas.
Magun's Compass

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