Jul 06 2013
    The route the bus takes in black, the route the pangolins take in red. Would i see them out of the window??

    The route the bus takes in black, the route the pangolins take in red. Would i see them out of the window??

    Why have I taken a 26 hour bus journey across the hills of Vietnam into Laos for $26? Do I think I am 26 again?

    I’m off to try and track the illegal trade in Laos, which, apparently, is much more visible over there than in the more developed Vietnam.

    Coincidentally the route that the bus takes is actually the route, back to front, that the illegal trade takes through Laos, into Vietnam and up to China. I’ll look out my vomit strewn window….

    I used to enjoy folding myself into a metal seat, eating my knees, whilst the woman next to me tended to her chickens – it was an adventure. But now that I’m accustomed to duvets and complaining in restaurants it’s not so easy to fold so small. Tolerance dwindles with age.

    The bus was a second hand Korean military bus which sat on the side of the road spewing fumes. A very small Vietnam man shouted at us and threw our bags into the hold. He was so aggressive and one young backpacker so small with such a big bag on her back that he didn’t realize he picked her up as well as the bag and tried to throw here into the hold too.


    Rape on the bus???

    I overheard one traveller say this was ‘the death bus’ as each journey someone was sure to get violently ill. Recently the bus had secretly gassed all the travellers through the A/C and bandits had come on and stolen all money or raped the passengers who later woke up with blurry memories and no pants or money.

    I tied myself up in a blanket ready for an adventure and fell asleep.

    We broke down twice, once because a policeman said we should have working lights in pitch of night and once when fumes started coming into the cabin so that we couldn’t breathe. I anticipated passing out and imminent rape but turned out it was a legitimate poisoning. The driver got out, saw that the electrics had gone, found some string on the floor and repaired the engine with it. When I stood and looked in horror he hit me with a flipflop and screamed to get me back in my seat.

    I didn’t sleep too much more and ended up speaking to an elderly Vietnamese man next to me who spoke English with a Russian accent and loved Dostoyevsky and claimed to be a dissident. He had grown up in communist Vietnam and had been sent to Moscow to learn Russian as a teenager and then returned to discover he hated communism. Nevertheless he retained a thick moustache and a wild husky laugh that he must have picked up from siberia.  He said he was being targeted by officials as he wrote a blog about things the government did wrong. I told him about my blog saying that the vietnamese were wankers about the wildlife.

    We arrived bleary eyed in the capital of Laos, Vientiane, at 3pm a few hours before I had to meet my pangolin contact to get some essential info on the trade and where I should go next. I have just heard that the guide who was due to take me out into the jungle has gone missing for a few months – he knew about the monkey trade. This doesn’t bode well.

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