There are those moments when stark realizations overlay themselves on what you are experiencing in the moment. Perhaps they come from song lyrics. From a literary reference. Or maybe something passively told to you drunkenly at a bar. At the Luang Prabang bus station, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Travelled” came to life in front of me.
The meat of Frost’s famous poem comes in his revelation that only one path is possible of the two he sees before him: one very well-trodden and another quite obviously not.
In front of me on my way back to Thailand were two options.
One was to Vang Vieng, one of the most notorious travel spots in South East Asia. Curiously enough, I was told on the way to Muang Sing that the most popular part of the town, “the island”, a small outcropping in the river had quite literally been burned to the ground by the local government because they were sick of drunk and/or high 20-somethings killing themselves in the area.
The Vang Vieng bus was a polished double-decker bus with pneumatic doors, built-in televisions and exquisite air-conditioning. Travelers sat in their colorful board shorts and dreadlocks waiting for it to leave. A good sign of the road well-travelled.
Another choice was Phonsavanh. Home to the Plain of Jars and numerous active and unexploded ordinance left over from the American bombing campaign during the Vietnam War, this is not such a destination.
And the bus to Phonsavanh reflected that. The equivalent of an old city bus was parked in front of me. Its driver (I think) and friends sat in front to its side waiting for passengers. It was obvious this route did not get the traffic of Vang Vieng.
And so I chose the latter, the road less travelled. And that made all the difference.