Posted by: adventuressetravels | May 25, 2012

Sleeping with Strangers

Sleeper bus has as many meanings and comfort levels as “VIP” does.  Before I came to Asia I assumed it meant plushy, reclining seats, new films, and perhaps wine would be involved.  In Argentina, Chile, and even Colombia, I had been spoiled.  Even my first night bus ride from Bangkok to Phnom Penh was nice.

I woke up to the true reality of night bus in Laos, on the ride from Vientiane to Pakse.   I started talking to Caroline, a British girl also taking the bus to Pakse.  We hit it off and ate a quick dinner together to kill a little time before the long bus ride

The differences were apparent from the start: the bus was careworn, significantly older than the sleeper busses I had come to expect.  But Laos was certainly a poorer country than the other places I had traveled, I couldn’t begrudge them older equipment.

The real disparities became apparent when we climbed onto the bus.  The driver handed each passenger plastic bags and before we were even allowed off of the bus steps we were asked to remove our shoes and place them in the bags.

Rather than seats, I was startled to see that the bus was outfitted with two rows of double bunk beds.  Being able to travel lying flat seemed like a wonderful thing, especially on a 14-hour bus journey.  As luxurious as the reclining seats might be, I never got the best sleep in them.

We checked our tickets and found our seats, or beds, if you will.  Suddenly we realized with horror that each double bed was meant to “sit” two people.  We were traveling alone: in the most literal sense we would be sleeping with complete strangers.  Who had gotten the tickets next to us?

Creepy men?  Overweight people who would take up ¾ of the bed?  Someone with sleep apnea?  My mind raced compiling a trait-by-trait list of the worst possible person to share a bed with.

But maybe… maybe there wouldn’t be enough people traveling by bus!  Maybe we really could have a beds to ourselves…

My heart sank as a portly Lao man walked over to the bed I was in.  He was my bed mate.   But I really had no desire to share a bed with a man I didn’t know.  I looked my ticket more closely this time, scrutinizing it.  I could almost convince myself that I was sharing a bed with my new travel friend.  Then and there we decided that it would be much less awkward and safer to share a bed than to roll the dice and see who was next to us.

All in all the lengthy wasn’t terribly uncomfortable.  But I realize how lucky I was.  Not only that I befriended Caroline before the ride, but that I was not sitting in one of the beds at the back.  There were people who actually had to share a bed with three strangers.  I may be a dyed-in-the-wool solo traveler, but sometimes it can be better to travel with a friend.


  1. What next?

  2. Sounds like my experience in Xinjiang…

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