“Bad luck” doesn’t so much capture our experiences with buses in Vietnam as “poor decisions” does. After getting off the boat in Chau Doc, we allowed ourselves to be shuttled to a tour operator who booked our tickets for twice the cost posted at the bus station (where we easily could have demanded to be taken to).
That bus ride was made better by passengers who started smoking, one guy hacking and spitting every few minutes, frequent stops to pick up or drop off extra customers of cartons of cigarettes (which were jammed under the floor boards and behind speakers. I was seated four across when two men carrying tar-covered watering cans got on–their cans got to sit on top of my pack in the back. On top of all of this, the man behind the wheel was driving like a maniac, causing the boy behind me to retch three or four times. I would also say there was an excessive use of the jarring horn. Colin agrees.
The three-hour bus ride erased all traces of relaxation from the four hours spent on the boat that morning.
A day and a half later we were sold bus tickets by a man at our hotel. “This drops you off right in District 1, center of town,” he tells us. “Tickets at the station are 110,” making his 150 tickets seem pretty reasonable if it’ll take us right where we want to go.
The man’s rotted teeth matched his soul. Tickets at the station were only 80 and four hours later, we were at the bus stop 15 km outside of town and the bus wasn’t going any further. Trust no one.
Other amusing bus-related stories include: fitting 15 people and at least five person-sized bags into a 12-seat minibus, made possible only by the bus assistant standing and hanging out the side, holding the door open while we whiz down the road; seeing at least twice that number of (Vietnamese) people inside a bus the same size–“inside” isn’t quite right, actually, since two people were sitting on the roof; getting as car sick as I’ve ever been without actually getting throwing up on a bouncing bus ride down from the Central Highlands. That was half my fault: I was finishing House of Sand and Fog–what a page-turner!