After our last horrendous experience on a ‘sleeper bus’ (where a bus is converted into a room with top and bottom bunks) we swore we would never experience it again. But we were forced to take one up from Dong Hoi to Hanoi, and luckily we knew what to ask this time.
First time from Ho Chi Minh, the lady at the travel agency said there were no seats/beds at the front available, so we agreed to the back seats on the condition there was no bathroom next to us. What she failed to disclose (even after I had asked her several times) was that the back beds are so low that you cannot actually sit up. You have to slide in backwards into your plastic ‘bed’ that you shared with four other people. We couldn’t even look out of the window as you had to hover your upper half body and neck to even glimpse at the passing countryside. I felt so sick that I just laid still for seven hours, praying that we would make it to Dalat.
So this time around, armed with the knowledge to not get stuck in the back – which I’m sure they reserve for foreigners – the four of us worked hard to ensure we had some good (bearable) seats/beds. I ended up drawing a bus, complete with wheels and a bus driver so that nothing was lost in translation with the bus ticket lady and then the travel agency. So we got the four front window seats, which wasn’t too bad.
What again, they failed to tell us was that this particular bus actually had FOUR BEDS across, instead of the standard three. Which meant poor Nicholas was squeezed up against a window and two Vietnamese men on the other side, while Sara, Lionel and I had individual beds which we could escape from easily.
I will never understand these Vietnamese sleeper buses. We had a woman sleeping in the aisle, all rugged up next to the bus driver, complete with a face mask. I got yelled at for bringing sand from my legs onto the bus – even though the bus arrived 40 minutes early before any of us had our planned showers after the beach!! The driver chain smoked in the bus despite the large ‘No Smoking’ sign. A cockroach strutted along my window. And our pee breaks were in the middle of the road, next to a field where I had to run out and squat to pee, only realizing half way that across the road was a bus full of people, some of who were jeering at me.
Most interesting were the various forms of entertainment they employed on the bus.
But we made it. Arriving at 5.50am in Hanoi from Dong Hoi for 250,000 Dong.
Ah, Vietnam. We’ve had so many problems with you and yet we’re extending our visas to stay another month?