Returning down the AH131 from Xiangliab just on dusk is something that should be experienced. The traffic heading to Vietnam at this time of day is nothing short of terrifying, large trucks, four wheel drives and scooters all vying for a piece of tarmac. Unnecessary fog lights flare up and blind the weary rider as the light of day sneaks away to recover for tomorrow. It’s now 7pm on Friday night.
I am almost prepared to say that there are no apparent road rules in this part of Laos. There is an unwritten sense of courtesy that is displayed however, nothing in concrete and certainly nothing understandable from the outsiders point of view. We are so used to rules that we find it hard to adapt to the randomness of highway travel here and real time problem solving.
During my stay here I have listened to many western people try to reconcile with themselves about what they think the rules are and I am certainly one who has thought about this at length but, my conclusion is now set in stone and there are no rules. If you try to abide by them you will only get frustrated and possibly injured or killed on these chaotic and incredibly dangerous roadways.
Trying to explain a night heading out for dinner is a task, but I have to say witnessing a scooter with four people (two adults and two children) travelling in the same lane as I was a first for me. Then there is the mass of 4×4’s that line the streets jostling for position and trying to pass each other while scooters zip in and out of what seems like a maze of oncoming traffic. There are two lanes with five lanes of traffic operating flawlessly within their confines.
Lanes are identifiable but irrelevant, indicators available for use, but irrelevant and there is no give way to anyone. If you want to turn right into the traffic then just do it. They will do their best to avoid hitting you and then maybe even speed up to assist in the continuing flow of random behaviour that occurs in this dusty town. I have witnessed it all over the past week.
This is truly something to experience people. Rent a scooter, get helmets and get out there and see if its as big an adventure as I think it is. I recommend highly using the roundabout here too. WOW! It will blow your mind. It’s a roundabout that is used to protect a statue of one of the many face gods and thats about it. Anything else is now for me one of life’s great uncertainties.