The night bus from Hanoi was typically bumpy, and every time I woke up we seemed to be going through road works. In any case when the bus dropped me off at Dong Ha, north of Hue, I was ready for breakfast, and pho would do nicely. I asked the owner of the restaurant if there was a bus to Lao Bao. He assured me that there was and it would be along shortly. After a little wait an ancient French-Colonial era bus rolled up. There was a 40 gallon drum on the roof that fed water to the leaking radiator. There were no windows. It was absolutely perfect. I was fed up with tourist buses and this was so much better.
Highway 9 goes from near sea level and winds up through the hills, past former American bases Camp Carol, Khe Sanh, Lang Vay, Hill 881, Hamburger Hill and other places of historical military interest.
Having crossed the border I found out I had missed the last bus of the day to Savannakhet by about 10 minutes. I looked around for a another way, finally finding a truck that was willing to take me and was leaving in around half an hour. While I waited I a saw a woman take a basket with 6 owls to a restaurant. I bought them from her, knowing that I was imposing my upbringing of meat in polystyrene packages in the supermarket freezer. She didn't seem to mind as I handed the money over.
I put the owls, blinking their big, gold eyes and cursing in the back of the truck and we started the trip to Savannakhet. We passed through some beautiful jungle, villages and landscape.
After a little while a young girl came into view standing on the side of the road. In her hand she held a cloth sack. The truck stopped and the driver looked in the sack. In it was a Muntjac, a small deer. I ended up buying that too. After about 2 hours, in the middle of nowhere we stopped and walked into the jungle and let all the animals go. The locals in the truck thought I was mad, and my sense of cultural imperialism was only swayed by these beautiful animals.