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Mirling Around the World

Tales from a Sleeper Bus

VIETNAM | Saturday, 3 February 2018 | Views [576]

 Riding the bus across Vietnam, there's a strange pattern, an ebb and flow. In my opinion, for travel to be worthwhile there needs to be enough time in a place to settle in, get to know the lay of the land, and have a couple of nights to get the sense of a city. We've been travelling in sets of 3-4 days through the country, each paying $47 (CAD) for an open bus ticket from the south to the north. With no prior set dates, these tickets will take us from Saigon --> Mui Ne --> Da Lat --> Nha Trang --> Hoi An --> Hue --> Hanoi, across the entire country (~1,600 km). What a deal!

I'd like to describe these 3-4 day long “travel sets”. Day one is taken up in part or in whole by time on the bus, finding your hostel without getting too much help from the local “easy rider” guys, and getting food to fill your belly. Even though you've spent hours reclining on a sleeper bus, somehow you still feel exhausted once you arrive.

Days 2/3 are the best – you've woken up where you will spend your day, and you get to head out and explore a new city! We often rent a motorbike and head out into the surrounding countryside to see sights less accessible by foot. If you've read my last blog, you know how I felt about this type of sightseeing in the mountains around Da Lat. To be fair, now that we are back out of the highlands, away from the cliffs and the careening trucks, I've found the motorbike much more enjoyable. It really is a wonderful feeling of independence to be able to take the bike wherever you want, whenever you want. Often on these second/third days, we seem to run into people who are travelling along the same route northwards, and end up making plans to see them in the next city. This adds a nice feeling of recognition and home to each new place, and we've swollen our little party of two to a party of eight! (Two Canadians, five Brits and one (lovely) local.)

Nearing the end of the second or third day, booking the next bus you experience a sense of winding down, or closing a chapter on the city. If you've made new friends travelling in a different direction, or even if you've found an incredible Banh Mi (a Vietnamese sandwich) shop that you've become loyal to, it can be sad parting ways. There's something disquieting about travelling a country that you may never see again and hopping so quickly from place to place. I suppose I'll adjust to this; we've only been travelling this way for two weeks, and prior to this trip, I've typically spent 7-10 days in the same place on holiday – a much different experience!

Day three/four is (you've guessed it) another travel day. There are usually three times a day that buses leave cities: if it is a day bus it will leave early in the morning or just after lunch, if it is a night bus it will leave around 7 pm. These days begin with a flurry of packing, showering, re-packing to have less bulk in your carry-on baggage, and checking out of your room. It's an odd rush compared to the timelessness of the other days (when you don't even really need a watch), but not too unpleasant if you give yourself enough time. Then you find yourself again on a bus. I happen to be on a sleeper bus right now as I type.

The buses are loud (constant honking), packed with people (6 rows of three across, double decker/bunkbed style), and your personal space is Vietnamese-sized. (How can I describe this .... one tourist attraction legitimately described needing to make spaces 20% larger to accommodate the “western-sized body” - I wasn't even mad). My recommendation is this: if you are travelling on a budget, if you are under 6 feet tall, if you can sleep anywhere and if you don't mind rude bus drivers, TAKE THE BUS!



Tags: bus, cross country, on the road, sleeper bus, vietnam


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