We woke up bright and early, said our goodbyes to Ali and Byrun and hopped on a bus that was running from Khon Kaen to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. The trip was pleasant enough and if we had planned a little better we would have gotten our visas for Laos before we left. However, we knew that you could get them at the border and decided to go about it that way. If I was going to do it again, I would have arranged the visa beforehand. On the bus we were the only non-Thai or Laos people and so everyone else had a quick line up at the border. It was only through luck that we grabbed our bags off the bus before lining up to do the visa proceedings. Some security guy told us too and we thought it was in case they had to search our bags. We stood in line, filled out forms, paid for and were presented with our shiny new Laos visas. Then we officially crossed the border into Laos to discover that our bus was nowhere to be seen! This was a bit shocking since now we were in Laos but with no way to finish the journey into Vientiane. We had also left a novel and our snacks on the bus anticipating that we would be re boarding it. We walked around a bit and were inundated by tuk tuk drivers trying to make a quick buck. Finally we asked a man who had a name tag claiming that he worked for information services. He pointed to another bus, not quite as nice as the one we had came to the border in, and when it pulled up we asked if we could get on. We showed our tickets from the other bus and the information man even came over and said something to the driver in Thai. At first they said we couldn't get on but then they allowed us to get in. So with a bit of quick thinking and a little bit of discomfort (we had to put our bags on our laps for the trip) we managed to get into Vientiane without having to pay for a tuk tuk.
We arrived at the same bus station in Vientiane that our other bus did and we were able to track it down. We woke up the driver, who was sleeping under the bus in the compartment where they stow luggage, and retrieved our novel. We didn't bother asking about the snacks. Next we bought a couple of sandwiches and sat down to think. The sandwiches were disgusting and we only were able to stomach about half of them. Then we haggled for a tuk tuk to the main part of the city near the Mekong River. From there we found a bank and changed some Thai baht for Laos kip and then wandered around looking for an appropriate guesthouse for the night. We found a cheap little place with the hardest bed I have ever encountered. We were both pretty tired and so we ate dinner and basically called it a night.
The next morning I woke up ill. It was really scary actually and pretty ironic since Laos isn't known for it's medical services but Thailand has excellent facilities. Basically I was experiencing vertigo and this was the first time I had ever had that happen to me. After taking some pain killers (I thought it might have been a tension headache or a pinched nerve) and sitting really still for awhile it basically went away. We decided to take it easy and just walked around the town a little bit and got a massage. The next morning (Sunday) I had the same problem. We concluded the rock hard bed must be the culprit and promptly changed to a guesthouse with softer beds. I took a nap and when I woke up things were pretty bad and we were both pretty freaked out. At this point we were considering turning around and heading back to Thailand. We noticed that there was an Australian run clinic located within the Australian Embassy in Vientiane and that it would cater to citizens from other Commonwealth countries.
We got up bright and early on Monday morning and headed there. It was a bit pricey ($81 for a check up and some pills) but worth it for the peace of mind it gave us. The doctor was fantastic and really attentive. Basically he said that the vertigo was likely caused by a viral infection (I'd had a bit of a cold in Thailand) and that it would go away on it's own in the next couple of weeks and that probably I'd experienced the worst of it. He prescribed some anti-nausea medication and advised if things didn't get better in the next 2 weeks to consider going to a hospital in Hanoi or one in Thailand for further tests.
With a positive prognosis we decided to continue with our travels in Laos and went back to our guesthouse, packed our bags, walked to the bus station and purchased tickets on the local bus to Vang Vieng. For all the pictures in Vientiane you can look here!