As soon as the kids climb into the rickety old bus they begin to complain. “Why can’t we take a taxi?” “This bus is dirty!”
Every crevice of the bus is covered in a thick layer of fine dirt. We could draw happy faces on every surface. The seats have long ago lost any ability to cushion your butt or provide any suspension. Mosquitos hide under the seats to perform sneak attacks on our exposed ankles.
Taking a taxi to Buddha Park in Vientiane costs $30, maybe less if you bargain hard. Taking the local bus to Buddha Park costs our family $4 ($1 each way per person and kids are free). It involves taking a newer bus donated by Japan to the Friendship Bridge and then switching to a small old bus for the rest of the journey. We opt to take the bus.
In response to the kids complaining about the bus I tell them this is an adventure that they need to try to enjoy. Once we get going it is like being on a ride at a fair. The potholes send us up and down and sometimes we even get air. We sing a song from our toddler days “A smooth road, a smooth road, a smooth road….a bumpy road, a bumpy road, a bumpy road….a rough road, a rough road, a rough road….. a hole!” Now each pothole is met with cheers and shrieks.
We use my scarf to cover our noses against the onslaught of dust from the unpaved roads. I look at the houses that line the roads, open windows, laundry hanging from clotheslines, cars, roadside stands; everything is covered in dust. How does anyone who lives near here stay clean?
A herd of cows wander onto the road. The driver maneuvers around them and our children lean their heads out the windows and “MOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Thirty Kilometers and an hour and twenty minutes later we reach our destination, Buddha Park. It’s a strange one. The park is an open field along the Mekong River with dozens of cool, beautiful, and down right weird statues. Buddha, Brahma, Shiva…. Gods, animals, warriors, and monsters created with care and concrete; it’s the perfect place for photos.
We spent hours there. Our oldest son took on the role of photography director, making up silly shots and making sure we were all in the perfect position for each photo.
After the whining subsided, getting there and back was half the fun. Who needs air conditioned comfort when you can take the bumpy, dusty, cow swerving, seen-better-days bus with the locals?