Our trek through Laos begins with a stop at a roadside restaurant for a noodle soup breakfast. Back in the open kitchen where we place our order, a woman and a girl dish bowls of the de-facto meal, while a mama cat and her scraggly kittens warm themselves amongst the stockpots.
After lunch, the Laotian sun makes an appearance, brilliantly welcoming us into the country. The change signals a happy end to a two-week stretch of grey, depressing weather. Flowered trees are blooming, the skies are clear, and not a single honk can be heard anywhere as we zig-zag our way through the mountains towards Luang Prabang. I can't help but look out the window and smile. It feels different here; quieter, more peaceful.
Scarcely an hour has passed since our last break and we're stopping again. The drivers of this bus are not in a hurry. As soon as I get outside, I stand, letting the sun caress my face, breathing the fresh mountain air deeply, feeling wholly grateful to be in this new place. It feels like Spring has come in January!
I can hear the wind rustling through the trees, and even birds chirping. Birds. Chirping. And other than that? Nothing. No honking, no hundreds of people in my face, no one trying to sell anything, just me and the mountains, and plenty, plenty of space, peace, and quiet. What a relief!
Tyler has befriends some guys in the back of the bus, and they are teaching him the basics of our new language. The word for "hello" is an easy, familiar (to Thai) and pleasing "Sabadeee!" while the words for "thank you very much" are an even more lovely and rhythmic "kop jai lai lai!"
I am curled up, in the fetal position forehead pressed against the bus seat. We've entered an area more mountainous than any we've traveled thus far; a land of switchbacks on top of switchbacks, of loop-de-loops that double back on themselves before they've even had a chance to unfold. Tyler and I are incapacitated: foreheads hot, stomachs roiling, brains stretching like taffy in our skulls, totally and utterly unused to the agony of being very seriously carsick.
I'm sure the scenery is amazing right now, but every time I lift my head to look outside I feel like my brain is getting kneaded into a loaf of bread, while my stomach declares mutiny on the rest of my body. I feel like death as our bus curves back and forth, it's path folding back in on itself.
Tyler pokes his head out of his cave of safety to look at our GPS; we are shocked to see that we've climbed a whopping ten thousand meters since leaving Hanoi. I'm glad we didn't cycle this bit, but I'm not convinced that a bit of thigh burn would be worse than how I feel right now.
Then, Tyler tells me another handy piece of news. We are crawling through these mountains at 30 kilometers an hour, and we have 300 kilometers to go before reaching Luang Prabang. Considering we stop every hour for about a half an hour… I'd say we should be there around next Christmas.
I lift my head to groan at the unthinkable news, uncertain of how I will ever make it. Then I collapse once more, bearing my forehead against the seat, the only thing that seems to help.