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Published: November 25th 2009
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
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