Bus-bound Pigeon Gang Travelers Out of Nowhere

"In Asia, you take your shoes off for everything."
Luang Prabang, Laos
Lost in the Jungle

Story & Media: Ben Rubin

The weekend before last I traveled 2000 km on public transportation through the misty jungles of Laos.  I left with no change of clothes, slept on a bus most nights, it rained almost every day, and I ended up with 5 stitches in my hand.  Here are some photos, sketches, and notes from my sketchbook.

"For the second consecutive night I would be sleeping on a bus, surrounded by strangers - winding along jungle roads for the next 15 hours together.  Babies were crying when I first walked on the bus with my bag of soup in one hand and bag of shoes in the other.  In Asia, you take your shoes off for everything."

People began throwing up into plastic bags 15 minutes later.
He seemed apologetic.
'It happens sometimes'.
Doua makes this overnight trip a few times a month. He picks up tourists up in the North first thing in the morning and floats back down the mighty Mekong, pointing out muddy villages along the misty shoreline for two days straight.  I offered him a shot of the lao lao Whiskey that the Tuk Tuk drivers have given me at the bus station for my franken-hand as they crowded over a burning barrel and took slugs in the rain.  I offered everyone on the bus a slug.

Doua is a self-proclaimed butterfly gardener.  For years, he and his children have been growing flowers that attract indigenous butterflies to his backyard, and now he has dozens of them hanging chrysalises all around his home.  Someday, he'll run a conservation organization.  Until then he sleeps on buses next to strangers and fills the silence with his whispering voice. 

"That spinning wheel doesn't look very robust, does it?"
             - British visitor at the Traditional Arts & Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang.

For more photos for the Laotian adventure, check out the Media Album.
For more about the trip, check out the Map of my Journey