Thursday, March 10th, 2016
We passed a man getting dental work on the side of the road as we searched for an ATM. We’d pass the same corner again during our search, and would be baffled when the same guy who was playing the role of dentist earlier was now playing the role of barber. The new patron in his chair was in the middle of a hair cut.
Eventually we’d locate an ATM, return to the hotel to pay for our stay, then we’d lounge there for a while. It started raining, but we were hungry, so we braved the weather and searched for the vegetarian restaurant that I had found directions for. After walking around in circles and having no luck, we ended up settling on the tried and true Banh Mi before returning to the hotel to wait.
The staff at the front desk had organized our transport to Hanoi, however we never received any tickets for our ride. This had me concerned, so I mentioned it to them. They assured us that everything was covered and that we wouldn’t need tickets. I took her word for it.
A minivan picked us up and we stopped a couple times to pick up a few others before we parked outside of ‘Camel Travel Co.’ for reasons unknown. Not only do dentists juggle two roles, the travel company also doubled as a place for delivering packages. As we waited, we watched as a pair of giggling girls dropped off a package, then took turns standing on the scale before riding away. Another minivan showed up and we were told to swap vans before being taken to our bus.
There were two sleeper buses in the lot when we arrived, and a mob of Westerners surrounded them. The people in charge didn’t seem to know what the hell they were doing. Everyone was loaded up on one bus, but then they were told to get off and get on the other one. Of course, they asked about our bus tickets which we were told we didn’t need. Apparently we weren’t the only ones there without our tickets; another couple was stuck in the same situation. When we asked the guy which bus we were supposed to get on, he yelled at us to wait.
People were being told to get on and off buses. The Westerners were confused. The bus company staff was confused. It was a total clusterfuck!
Once we knew what bus to get on, the guy refused to put our luggage underneath of it, and yelled at me for asking. So of course, we were forced to carry our packs onboard. We found seats, then we were yelled at again for not getting on the top level or moving to the back. Trevor calmly asked if he could just stow our luggage before the bus pulled away, but only got yelled at. So there we sat, holding our bags, as if sleeper buses weren’t stuffy enough. We placed them on an empty bunk seat and were glad that we could keep them there since the bus wasn’t completely filled up.
Once I got comfortable, a girl approached me. She asked if I would move my bag so she could sit there. She was sitting near the bathroom and it was too stinky for her liking. I explained our situation and hoped she would understand that we didn’t want to hog a seat with our packs, but had no choice. I was on the top tier, so I didn’t want to rest my bag in the aisle next to the guy below me.
She responded by telling me that I could let her boyfriend hold it, “I promise he won’t steal anything!” Irritated beyond belief at what a diva she was being, I rolled my eyes and told Trevor the situation. We laid our luggage on top of ourselves, and would hold them there for the next several hours. She seemed bewildered that I didn’t trust her boyfriend (that we’ve never met) with all of our belongings, who was sitting all the way in the back, completely out of our sight.
Before we made it to Phong Nga, the bus pulled over so people could eat dinner. We didn’t join them since we had already eaten. The guy who refused to take our luggage earlier was now acting totally confused over why we had carried them onboard. Suddenly he was Mister Helpful and offered to stow them away for us. We stretched our legs then returned to the bus. I took my first Xanax that day hoping that it would knock me the hell out. I was done.
Jump Back to Part 14: Sanctuary, Shattered Glass & Spelunking
Jump Ahead to Part 16: Pho, Revolutionaries & The ‘Hanoi Hilton’
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Busing Across the Border to Ho Chi Minh City