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Eileen from bearshapedsphere is busy a-mustering horrid-yet funny (i.e. you survived intact – mostly) stories from the far reaches of blogzakstan. Ranging from being caught in the middle of a taxi-war (a more gentle, non-South African version of one, thank god) to the epic search for the 99 bus here. So if you have a terrible, terrifying or tortuous tale of travel, now is the time to file said megaultrabad story here. Now. As for me, having written about terrifying bus rides of my own, and near-cholera-inducing accommodation, this new story (which actually happened shortly after the Laos bus ride of terror (see above link) began thus…

It was late on Christmas Eve when the bus deposited us in Luang Prabhang. That sort of late when perhaps an hour of light remains as twilight begins to reclaim the day. Luang Prabhang, one of the larger cities in Laos, would have looked all the more interesting as the fading light pushed people from the last chores of their day along the banks of the Mekhong river and the various shops and other centers of activity in the town. Would have looked all the more interesting, except that we had not yet found a place to sleep.

Despite being a party of five, I had imagined that catching the first bus to Luang Prabhang would make finding a place to stay simple enough. Survival of the fittest. Or first to the reception desk, as the case may be. Unfortunately, our bus – despite leaving first – appeared to have arrived almost last in town. A fact that was made apparent as the first hostel indicated that they had no room for our motley crew. Then the next. And so on.

Nothing makes a grumpy person grumpier than when someone else finds something funny about it.

Growing increasingly tired traipsing around the town as night began to fall, I was reminded obliquely by the increasing level of grumbling in our party that I had in fact been the one who had been all relaxed about our chances of finding accommodation earlier that morning, insisting that we didn’t need to phone ahead. It would be fine to just pop up and find a place. After all, how many people could possibly be there already?

Quite a lot as it turned out.

The increasingly-less-subtle conversations involving ‘Richard’ and ‘sleeping on the street’ did little to improve my mood. Particularly as we were beginning to near the end of Lonely Planet’s handful of suggested accommodation. The guidebook also helpfully pointed out that we were some 400km from the capital, Vientiane and surrounded for the most part with foresty jungle goodness (with the highest average concentration of unexploded ordnance in the world) and that no buses would be going anywhere useful until tomorrow morning.

A visual depiction of my frame of mind at the time. Minus the other four heads. Just the middle one. The biggest and most angry.

A visual depiction of my frame of mind at the time. Minus the other four heads. Just the middle one. The biggest and most angry.

As the visions of having to actually, seriously, really consider the possibility of sleeping, at best, in the lobby of a sympathetic backpackers, my mood began to sour further. To the point that I was barely on speaking terms with my brother, leader of the pointed conversation brigade. As if things were not bad enough, my already foul mood dipped to new lows in the darkness when it became apparent that he had found something funny in the situation. Nothing makes a grumpy person grumpier than when someone else finds something funny about it.

Looking at me, with a fat grin on his face:

“Hey, it’s not the end of the world. It’s Christmas eve. We aren’t the only travellers who have ever found themselves without a place to crash on Chrismas Eve. And it worked out OK for them in the end.”

At which point he received a somewhat curt:

“Who John? Who the hell else do you know who has ever found themselves without a place to sleep on Christmas Eve a thousand miles from home?!”

The rest, as they say, is history. It still took me what seemed like an age of looking at his grinning face before the answer dawned on me. And I felt like a complete fool.

Still makes me laugh though.

Happy faces in the group the next morning. We found a place in the end, you see. Nobody gave birth to a saviour unfortunately. I am sure I would have noticed if any of us had.

Happy faces in the group the next morning. We found a place in the end, you see. Nobody gave birth to a saviour unfortunately. I am sure I would have noticed if any of us had.