Soon after boarding the bus from Tha Kaek to Savannahket I mused that of all the bus journeys I’d taken so far in Laos, nothing had gone wrong. Sure there was the landfall that blocked the road for a few hours on the way to Dien Bien Phu, and yes some trips were hellish, but none of the buses had actually broken down. I should have known better than to tempt fate…

Suddenly I was ripped from my doze by the sound of a loud bang! directly underneath me and swift deceleration as the driver hit the brakes. A tyre had blown out. Fortunately there were two tyres on that corner so we didn’t lose control, and luckier still we pulled to a stop right outside a roadside shop so cool drinks could be had while the tyre was changed.

Savannakhet proved to be a little disappointing. Not for the town itself – it’s one of the more prosperous and populous parts of Laos, and earns a tidy living from the sea of trade that flows through here between Thailand and Vietnam. But I’d deliberately aimed to be in this larger town because I wanted to be somewhere busy with a good concentration of other westerners for New Year’s Eve. I’ve been rather remote of late, and was craving familiar company for a while…

But my new year experience was not what I expected. After wandering the streets and several restaurant/bars I saw almost no other travellers. Even the guesthouse I was staying at, which had promised a celebration for its few guests, was a dud with noone else showing up! But the town was certainly busy, and NYE was a much bigger affair locally than I thought it’d be. Many shops closed early, there were lots of private barbeques and parties going on in peoples’ front yards/terraces, and kids gleefully let off crackers everywhere. I ended up accepting a random invite from a small group of locals who beckoned me over to the table out the front of their shop. My Lao language skills were horribly exposed, but we managed to communicate enough to see in the midnight hour. Lots of beerlao was consumed, with endless toasts and a fair bit of food too. Definitely a different NYE!

Categories: Laos, travel | Leave a comment

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