Patience really is the name of the game when travelling in Asia. Here's what you can expect from a typical journey:
THE PICK UP:
- The only security you have that you are going to be picked up in the first place is the rushed phonecall from the person you booked it from and small sheet of paper with "PAID" stamped on it. Its all about having faith!
- A piece of paper as a receipt is too much of an assurance, so as soon as you are picked up it is quickly replaced with a colourful sticker which somehow is your key to where you are going ... if lost, all assurances that you had paid for the trip are lost too... while hot and sweaty this doesn't fill you with much confidence!
- Suggested pick up time is merely a suggestion; you could be picked up sometime between 15 minutes before (although not likely) and up to 2 hours late (more likely)
- The initial relief that your journey is beginning is short lived, as often after 10 minutes there is an abrupt stop with no indication as to why or how long you could be there, usually a breakdown conveniently outside their office.
- Never, ever ask how long you might be waiting for risk of having a chair thrown at you
- Politness and common coutesy are non existent. Its ok for you to wait for hours until they are ready, but as soon as they are, that extra couple of seconds it takes to remove your bag from your back are really annoying!
- If the bus isnt full, you will drive in loops around the town picking up anyone who looks like they might be waiting for a bus until it is full. No seat may be left unfilled, someone will be lucky enough to sit next to the driver.
- At this point you may finally leave
- Finally on the go, but not for long...Asian drivers assume that western people cannot go more than one hour without being fed or going to the toilet. If you are lucky enough to be travelling along a main road, you are more likely to stop at a 7/11 which usually leads to your waistline expanding as your wallet deflates. On the country roads you are likely to stop at a friends restaurant
- To make up for the numerous toilet and food stops, the drivers attempt to make up as much time as they can by driving at break-neck speed along windy mountain roads, overtaking on blind corners and inspiring terror in any passengers not used to the experience.
- As every seat usually has at least one person sitting on it, the bus can be pretty cosy...the only thing that stops you from being travel sick then and there is the arctic conditions created by the air conditioning. There is no such thing as a comfortable temperature, no aircon = sahara desert, aircon = blizzard in the Antarctic.
- The number of people can be seen as a plus as you would fly around the bus as it corners if you weren't sardined.
- Do not ever open a window as you will have it slammed angrily by someone outside the bus before you continue
THE DROP OFF
- The advertised arrival time is stated just to entice you to book. The time advertised and the time you actually arrive can vary between half an hour, if your lucky and its a short journey, up to 6 hours....always late.
- The end of the journey and the almost always the most infuriating part of the journey. This normally goes down one of two ways both with the same outcome.
1) Sometimes the bus drops you to the destination bus station, but the said bus station is normally way away from the town centre so you have to get an overpriced tuk-tuk to town.
2) More often than not, the bus will stop in town so any local people can get off but not allow tourists off. The bus will then drive further outside town, too far to walk, to where an army of tuk-tuk drivers will be waiting to take advantage with their extortionate prices. Im sure the bus driver gets a nice wedge for himself as well...
You have now arrived at your destination, thank you for travelling Asian style.
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