Find Travel Partners: Saved In The Mountains Of Laos
Dec 22, 2016
This is a story of how important it is to find travel partners because you never know when they can save you – BIG TIME!
After 4 long days (and nights!) parading around Khao San Road and experiencing the fun-filled streets of a bustling Bangkok, it was time for myself, Melissa and Jade to begin our more northern adventures in Laos.
Getting to Bangkok International Airport (Suvarnabhumi Airport) for our 09:40AM flight to Luang Prabang on Bangkok Airways 941 was supposed to be a breeze. We left our hotel well over two hours in advance of our departure time. Despite our relatively early rise, we were in high spirits.
That was until a serious accident on the motorway brought traffic to a standstill. We couldn’t see the accident but cars were strewn across the street for miles by the time we realised something had happened. All of a sudden, we were stuck.
Try as we might, we were no chance of finding an escape from the motorway and arrived just moments after the gates had closed for our flight. We begged, and begged, and begged the airline staff but to no avail.
In the end, they kindly offered us three seats on Bangkok Airways 945, the same flight but still over four hours from departure at 03:05PM. With heavy hearts, we reluctantly agreed. We could have flown with AirAsia or Lao Airlines but it would have been an expensive process.
Mel and Jade moved straight towards McDonald’s. We’d been awake for a while and hadn’t eaten much throughout the morning, and it was starting to take its toll. And let’s face it, we had nothing else to do.
The girls fell asleep almost instantly after we sat down on some chairs but I couldn’t sleep. I tried to pass the time by keeping myself entertained – I walked through store after store, treated myself to a massage chair for two minutes, caught up with some friends from back home on Facebook. After what seemed an eternity already, my watch read just 15 minutes since we’d left McDonald’s.
“Excuse me, where are you from?” I heard a man ask.
He was a short, timid man who was softly spoken. It was easy to see that he didn’t often talk to people.
It was easy for me to introduce myself. Being a tall, blue-eyed blonde from Norway, he was instantly intrigued by my story. He explained that his name was Akamu, which means ‘from the red earth’, and he was from a small village in northern Laos.
All of a sudden it was me who was encapsulated by his story. This was his first trip outside of his native Laos and only his second time on a flight, he explained. He’d saved up enough money in the past two years to visit an American doctor who had come to his village when Akamu was just six years old. He spoke about each and all the memories that had driven him to take such a leap from his comfort zone.
As a first-timer to Laos, his influence and advice was invaluable. He was able to share some insight on how to get the most out of the trip, experiencing all Laos has to offer while remaining safe as three travelling girls.
Regrettably, I didn’t exchange contact details with Akamu as he boarded his flight to Luang Prabang. I simply thanked him for helping pass the time by sharing a tiny portion, yet such a big piece, of his life.
Two days later, we were heading south to Vientiane on a seven-hour bus trip through the mountains. We had made plans for the next day that we couldn’t afford to miss, so you can imagine the angst we felt when a trucked blocked the entire road.
Our driver told us that we could potentially be stranded for days. While other passengers started setting up tents, we were told our best chance was to walk down the mountainside and try to find a different bus.
After hours of walking through the beautiful landscape of the northern Laos mountains, a tuk-tuk whizzed past us. It came to a screeching halt just in front of us when a friendly face turned and motioned for us to come over – it was Akamu!
He had been delivering groceries and supplies to small villages and was able to take us to a nearby village where we loaded onto a bus to get to Vientiane on time. All the meanwhile we helped him with some deliveries and were able to meet the sweetest Laotian people, who offered us there food and water throughout our travels.
This time, when I said goodbye to Akamu we exchanged details and I parted him with a gift – a Lykke Troll. This is a small wooden ornament of a troll that is considered good luck to those who possess it. It was gifted to me by my friends back home in Norway before I left on my travels and will be a permanent reminder to Akamu of our crazy experience and that he always has a home in Norway.
The moral of the story is this: Take a chance getting to know someone you meet at the airport. You never know when you’ll need them.