Vietnam Part I - Saigon to Hanoi

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Asia » Vietnam » South Central Coast » Khanh Hoa » Nha Trang
November 19th 2009
Published: November 25th 2009
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The last 10 days have been incredibly tough. To say it has been one thing after another would be an understatement, so much so, that I need to do this over two blogs. Our impression of Vietnam has been for ever tainted by the previous week or so and unfortunately will not go down as one of our favourite places. Vietnam is a marmite country. You either like it or you don’t. Everyone I have talked to is 50/50 on it. Some love, others hate it. I don’t like marmite.

The bus we got out of Saigon was nothing short of torture. It was the worst journey we have taken in over 9 months of travel. It was a sleeper bus and I had a bed the width of my hips and was held in by iron bars either side. The bus had no suspension, so every time it hit a bump I lifted six inches of my bed and then smacked back down on the iron bars. I didn’t sleep a wink and felt every bump and turn for 10hrs. Michelle luckily has a way of overcoming these discomforts, I don’t. As she said ‘she is not a sensitive as me’!. You would have to take the bus journey to understand the level of torture it felt like. I was physically and mentally tired, and when your kept awake by being bounced of iron bars, that is akin to torture. When we arrived in Na Trang we were hounded by guys on motorbikes to go to the hotel of their choice. They really wouldn’t leave us alone. Then we couldn’t find a café so Michelle could sit and mind the bags while I go look for a place to stay. Eventually we gave in and went to the first hotel we had seen. He had badgered when we got off the bus us so much I didn’t want to stay there. $10 for the room, with wi-fi that worked minute on, minute off. The weather was wet and the ‘lovely beach town’ wasn’t really that appealing.

We did go out to see Ireland play Australia in an Irish bar. We met up with others from home and got home in the wee hours of the morning. Vietnam don’t do buckets. They do large jam jars. Not advisable either! Next day we took it handy. We had wanted to do things in Na Trang but the weather wasn’t great for it. The next day we booked a bus to Hoi An. Hotel staff sneakily got it out of us that we needed to get a bus. When we said we were going out to buy one they got extremely angry that we were not buying one of them. To the point that it was nearly aggressive. We told them we wanted the best bus to Hoi An. They said it would be $15 each. The last bus we got was $9 and for the same distance. I knew they were trying to screw us. She swore blind that her ticket was the same price as buying off the bus company to the point that I believed her. We booked the ticket there and as the bus wasn’t until 7pm, I asked could we have a late checkout at 3pm instead of 12pm. I said we would buy lunch and dinner in her restaurant if she let us. She gave me a straight no. No explanation, no ‘it’s not or policy, I’m sorry’. Just no. I was really annoyed as we had bought lunch and dinner there most days and had stayed for 3 nights. The place wasn’t exactly full so it wouldn’t have been a big deal to let us stay. Most places if you ask for a late check out until 3pm they will say 2pm, and everyone is happy. As we couldn’t go anywhere else we had to wait around the hotel for the day. Our bus was picking us up from there and it was lashing rain all day. We didn’t buy any food there though. We watched her at play for a few hours while waiting. She actually bullied numerous customers into buying over priced tours off her and then get aggressively angry when people didn’t. This I’m afraid, is a common sales technique in Vietnam.

Our bus arrived eventually at 7:30pm (we were told to be in the lobby at 6pm) and we left for Hoi An. The bus was a lot better, but things were about to deteriorate again unfortunately. We found out that others had only paid $10 for the journey but that was the least of our worries. As it was Michelle’s birthday the following day we decided to travel on the 17th, the day before hers. We had planned to book into a nice hotel with a swimming pool and have a little extra luxury for the day. Michelle just wanted to relax and eat well but the next turn of events ruined all of that. Our bus broken down not long after 12am in the middle of nowhere. They tried to fix it and in usual fashion nobody on the bus was told anything. Time ticked by and eventually it was 6am. Still none of the bus crew would tell us anything. At 8am they got it working and then told us we would drive 10km to the next rest stop and wait until 12pm for another bus to come and pick us up. Not once did any of them say sorry. What can you do? Who can you complain too? It was a case of tough s**t. Nobody cared about the bus breaking down. That happens. Everyone was annoyed that there was no apology or even given any updates as to what was happening. We eventually arrived in Hoi An, 24hrs after we had left Na Trang. Michelle’s birthday was now in ruins, but we did gather up a few people and went for something to eat and had a few drinks. We didn’t stay out too late though as we were all exhausted from what had happened over the last few days. Next day we hooked up with Kerry and Simon from England, to catch another bus to Hanoi. They were on our first bus (the torture one) and the second bus too. Hopefully this was third time lucky.

We booked four out of the five back row beds and knew no one would want to book a ticket in the middle of us. This gave us space for our bags and more importantly, leg room. Well supplied, we were prepared for the bus to break down for a few days! It did arrive on time though and I did sleep a lot better. It had been a tough few days since leaving Saigon and now we were in the other end of the country. When we arrived in Hanoi, we got straight on another bus to Halong Bay. Our hard times did not stop there. Vietnam could well turn out to be the straw that broke the camels back. Stay tuned.

In a bit. DH

Song of the blog: Weather with you - Crowded House


25th November 2009

Ha! oh my, reading your blog I feel for you, We were in Vietnam around 2years back and we have been all over Asia more than twice. After visiting Vietnam after a month we just had to get the hell out of there. a truely horrible place and the people are just awful and I dont care that I'm generalising because I HATE Vietnam. my advice? get the hell out!
25th November 2009

I guess everyone has different experiences, but I felt I should write in response to the last, very general comment by Paul and Emma. I really enjoyed Vietnam the both times I was there. Like all places there is good and bad everywhere you go but I can honestly say that I had a great time. It was certainly more commercialised than say Laos or Cambodia, but I enjoyed it because of that difference, to be able to compare it to other places along the way - the diversity, the history and the people made it all worth visiting (which is why we travel, I guess). I spent about 6 weeks there (and 10 months in Asia) in total, travelling all over the country and didn't encounter any more problems than elsewhere in the region. Wanderly Wagon - I hope the rest of your trip improves! Happy travels... .
25th November 2009

The inconveniences that happen along the way are part of travelling and without them your trip would be dull. If you want everything as it is at home, then go to magaluf on your next holiday. In this blog you just come across as a spoilt brat.
26th November 2009

Dear Keyboard Warrior, I suggest you read my 100 or so other blogs to see what I'm like. I could try and generalise the type of traveler you are, but I'm afraid I'm now having too much fun in Thailand. My blogs are for my memories and that's what happened that week. Lots of others have commented on not liking Vietnam. I grew to like it by the end. Darren
26th November 2009

Hi, guys. I empathise with you. VN is a most frustrating country. But, once you get in tune with doing things their way (but on your own terms), it sort of works. IMHO, using hostels/GH as a place for info will always result in agony. Not only do they want a cut (in itself no problem), but because you have little recourse to them if anything goes wrong, they travel mob they use will also know to treat you as fair game. Try to book with the actual operator. For bus trips, I always use Sinh Cafe (, as they appear to have the most reliable vehicles. Similarly, for train trips, go to VN railways. etc... As for accommodation / dining / etc., try to get away from where the other tourists are hanging out. You tend to get treated with more cheerfulness, and ripped off less. I have learnt that in VN, if I want a good experience, I'll not get it where tourists are merely trying to get the same as what they are comfortable with at home. So, a bar full of westerners isn't a VN experience, so I suggest you avoid. etc., etc. I do hope you get to go to SaPa - it's a beautiful part of the world. Go see what I wrote at: Hope things get better for you. Cheers,
26th November 2009

Oh, forgot about link
Sorry, I forgot they take link details out, so... the website is travelfish then org, and the page is forward slash board, followed by forward slash post, then forward slash vietnam, followed by forward slash and 7390_visiting-sapa. Hopefully that will get you tome good info. Cheers
27th November 2009

mp3 downloads
Really it's too painful journey,i like Vietnam becoz Vietnam is a marmite country.everyone has a different opnion. i have positive one.
27th November 2009

Learn to travel first
I agree that your experience is true but that's what happens when you're travelling on tourist buses, to all the backpacker stopovers and all. Viet Nam is excellent and only occasionally I hated it. You learn to be stubborn when required, like the locals. The main thing is not too loose your cool and not to be a wus.
27th November 2009

I did grow to like Vietnam & its people for the last few days I was there. The long hard buses and bus breakdowns are all part and parcel of traveling, I fully understand that. It doesn't mean that it is easy. I've used buses in 13 previous countries and found Vietnam to be the toughest. Next blog will see a turn around and thanks to those whop have read this one. One of my worst and it now has one of my highest views. Strange! Wanderly Wagon

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