I read in Frommer's Guide not to be surprised if the bus company has a hired armed guard toting a machine gun to protect you from highway robbers.
Seriously? like rambo?
What i NEED to know is how many people travel from Vietienne--Vang Vieng--Luang Pabrang and then out towards Vietnam via bus and how sketchy it is.
I'm prepared to be squished up with people holding chickens, sans AC. I'm prepared to break down a lot. I'm prepared for grit dirt and sweat. But am i likely to be getting shot to pieces?
anyone with experience in this area, please reply.
the Reverand Croft
Sounds a tad fishy to me! Considering you read it on Frommer's, I'd say someone was either exaggerating a bit or they experienced this in 1960.
Not 1960. This was the situation when I took this road in 2003 (5 years ago this week actually). There was a heavily armed guard on my bus, and armed guards every half a kilometer or so along the road between Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang. However, this had little to do with robberies along the road, but rather political instability and local minority groups protesting in the form of bus bombing attacks. We did pass by one burned out shell of a bus from a couple weeks earlier. I haven't been following the situation closely in the last few years, but the fact that I've read and heard heaps and heaps about tourism in Laos, and almost nothing about this issue makes me think that the dangers are pretty minimal these days. Hopefully someone can give you a more up to date report than myself or a guidebook that may have been researched a couple years ago.
I have done the bus trip from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng to Vietienne last year (2007) and apart from feeling a bit nauseus because the road was really windy, it seemed perfectly safe during the whole journey. I had also heard the stories of armed guards and highway robbers before, but once you're there it was totally fine. Therefore, I can only recommend to take some pills against travel sickness, otherwise you won't be able to enjoy the beautiful view.