The only option from Thakhek to the 4000 islands on the Mekong river was an overnight 14hr local bus. The bus was only about half full of people, however it was heavily loaded with fresh produce such as corn and tomatoes. The back three rows of seats and under each seat was packed with food being shipped south, along with the underneath storage compartments and much of the roof. Even the aisle was full of bags of corn stacked 2 high which we walked over entering and exiting the bus. There were also two motorbikes, one strapped to the rear and one on the roof. The bus was ragged, but boasted the biggest flatscreen TV I’ve ever seen in a bus, and played Karaoke the whole ride.
After leaving a half hour late, the bus pulled over 50m down the road, where these two photographs were taken, and waited two more hours for a truck loaded with bags of cucumbers to pull up beside us. They piled almost a full truck load on top of the bus roof and a few other bags into the few remaining niches in the bus. Meanwhile they installed a couple wooden columns in the aisle in the bus to support the extra roof load.
It was not done there, further down the road they loaded another 30-40 (20kg) bags of fish pellets onto the roof. Finally at about 5am we arrived at the market in Pakse, to supply them with their daily vegetable supplies before continuing another 3 hours south to our final destination.
I wasn’t able to sleep much, however it made for the most interesting bus ride I have had. It was also surprisingly enjoyable considering the bus conditions and how crammed in we were.