one way ticket to hell… and back






*DA: Dangerous Assumption.
*HR: Hideous Realisation.

0900: Arrive at bus station. Buy ticket. Eat baguette. ETD 1000. Feeling good.

1000: Bus leaves on time. A good omen, no? Consecutive screenings of Terminator 1, 2 and 4 (don’t ask). Monotone Laotian dubbing but Dodd knows all the lines anyway.

1500: Border crossing. Exchange worthless kip for marginally less worthless dong. Have temperature taken and written down on a Very Official Piece of Paper which is later screwed up and thrown in the bin by immigration dude. Hello Viet Nam.

1800: Arrive Hue. Pleased with the number of socialist-realist billboards and statues sighted so far. Bus station largely deserted except for one dude. Sleeper bus to Saigon leaving “somewhere between 2300 and 2400.” Vagueness arouses some concern but proceed with transaction as there is no other option. It’s 1000km to Saigon but apparently the NH1 highway is in good condition, so surely we’ll be there by lunch tomorrow (DA* #1).

1830 – 2130: Eat fish noodle soup. Get laughed at by locals. Buy muffins. Find internet place and write upbeat emails to Kieran and Jane about how we’ll be in Saigon very soon (DA #2).

2130: Return to bus station. Better to be there early, as we would hate to miss the bus (DA #3).

2130 – 2400: Spend time in the company of itinerants, mosquitoes and rats. Pee in a deserted corner of the bus station because the toilet is locked. Get excited when a few buses pull in to the station; disappointed to discover they aren’t ours. Discuss how the sleeper buses look quite comfortable (DA #4).

2400: Bus arrives. It’s ours. If not for us, the only reason bus would have stopped is to take on board a small cardboard box. Sleeper berth makes a child’s cot look roomy but no matter – after all, we’ll be there by about lunchtime (ibid DA #1).

0005: Catie realises her bed is above the toilet (HR* #1).

Unknown small hours of the morning: Dodd awakes. Bus pulls in to depot for no apparent reason. Bus goes to another depot to have windscreen washed. Bus then goes back to first depot so driver can smoke fags and watch TV with other drivers. Dodd closes his eyes and hopes this is all a bad dream.

0600: Driver switches on bus “entertainment” system. First auditory treats of the day are Asian Abba and Kylie medleys. OMG.

0800: Catie sees sign out the window – 650km to Saigon. Something has gone terribly wrong (HR #2).

0900: Breakfast stop. Thank God for muffins. Awkward conversation about ETA. Even Dodd’s maths can work out that travelling 350km in 8 hours is very, very bad.

0930 – 1300: Morale slumps. Turns out NH1 “highway” is more like Bagot Road (HR #3). Max speed 80km/h. Subjected to screening of entire series of Vietnamese “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Dark Knight” (with monotone Vietnamese dubbing), the violent scenes of which are particularly enjoyed by the small children on the bus.

1300: Lunch stop. Dine in silence.

1400: A few other beds vacate and Catie is able to move from her toilet bed. Grandpa in bed underneath Dodd emits series of stinky farts. Catie enters delirious state characterised by fits of uncontrollable giggling.

1600: Abba and Kylie medleys are repeated. Pray that “entertainment” offerings have been exhausted and we’ll soon be delivered from auditory hell.

1610: No such luck. Screening of Peking opera. Abandon all hope.

1900: Dinner stop. Highlight is bathroom featuring a female urinal (several pairs of bricks placed squatting distance apart over a concrete trough).

2000: Catie and Linds enter robotic states.

2200 – 2330: Any excitement over relatively imminent arrival is tempered by boredom of endless Saigon suburbs which seem to solely comprise enormous churches and brothels. Oh, and it’s pissing with rain too. Catie wills herself to sleep.

2330: Arrival. Not at all excited due to robotic states. Make our way to earmarked hotel. Nearly cry when lady says they’re full. Nearly kiss lady when she says they have room at their other hotel and they’ll send someone to pick us up.

2400: Ride through deserted streets on back of motorbike to hotel. Collapse. Vow to never set foot on a bus again. Ever.


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3 Responses to “one way ticket to hell… and back”

  1. Alaina Newnes Says:

    I want to see the photos of the female urinal! That is indeed a highlight!

  2. Geoff Says:

    You poor buggers. If it wasn’t for the fact that you’ve been on holiday for fully 6mths I would feel very sorry for you indeed …

  3. slowly down the ganges « beyond bagot Says:

    […] we boarded the overnight train to Varanasi which turned out to be horrifically reminiscent of our maiden bus journey in Vietnam. Delayed by aforementioned fog, the scheduled 13 hour journey turned into 23 hours and […]

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