Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Night bus to Hanoi!

Basically trolled around Hue on Monday waiting for 5.30pm when we were due to be collected for the sleeper bus to Hanoi.

Obviously it didn't go swimmingly - obviously! A girl collected us and took us to a car with three men shoved in the back seat and two others trying to stick their backpacks, guitars, digerydoos and lord knows what other traveller detritus in the already cramped space; then themselves and the girl and the driver having some sort of row about how Simon and I would be able to fit in. She tried squeezing our bags on the front seat and then pushed Simon on to the back seat and then realised that there was no way I would fit in as well so promptly said "Wait here" and made to leave.. Simon hopped out and said I'll wait with my wife and we'll keep our rucksacks too if you don't mind. She did! Much shouting ensued and we were left at the road side with bemused cyclo drivers glaring anxiously at my red face shouting expletives after the departing vehicle.

By the time they came back for us we were all smiling and apologising.

Okay so the sleeper bus!!!!!!
Once again I have to give fair warning to my mum and brother- cancel your flights to Vietnam guys! Basically you take your shoes off and put them in a plastic bag before walking up a 2 foot wide space of an aisle with "pods" at ground level and shoulder level (three columns of them - at each window and in the middle of the bus) We were in many ways lucky because we had a top and bottom place at window side not quite at the back of the bus - where you get three "beds" next to each other. The width is about 2foot and the length includes a bit where you slide your feet into the plastic casing of the bed in front - horrible for claustrophobes and for some of the big western guys over 6 foot. At first we managed to stay fairly calm. I was in the ground floor bit and could slide one leg out into the aisle. Then at about 8.30pm when everyone was fairly calm and settled into reading their books, they decided to switch all the lights out. (great! you could hear the collective thought patterns of all aboard... we have another 12 hours of this! And at that stage we'd already been travelling almost 3 hours)

By midnight I had managed a 5 min snooze but woke up in a panic as I realised that two local women had jumped on board and were now sleeping next to me in the aisle space (bear in mind the beds are actually on the floor) so that I had a head right by me. My saving grace had been the fact that I could clamber out of my pod and stand for a few mins if need be but now that option was a no go and the panic started to rise.

The only option was to take a valium- which I duly did and handed them up to Pants who also indulged. We managed about 4 hours sleep each.

Eventually at 8.30am we pulled into Hanoi. We took a cab to our guest house which is superb. Si went for an explore in the afternoon and I caught up on some zeds. Last night we wandered out to find some supper and found ourselves here in the old quarter which is a vast labyrinth of basically shops and markets. We found a little aircon place which was okay.

Then headed to a beer hoi place (locally brewed draught beer served in red chair cafes on street corners) I knew Pants was keen to sample this local experience and so gingerly sat on the tiny red stool in amongst the litter and dirt of pavement and gutter. We were served two beers in the filthiest glasses you ever saw. I am sorry but I have become an uber wuss by this stage. Having seen some enormouse (I am literally talking cat okay kitten sized) rats in broad daylight and some mouse sized cockroaches, I find sitting almost on a filthy pavement in the dark just not relaxing. Unfortunately there is no sort of tourist centre or cafe quarter so it looks as thought this is our lot.

Today (my birthday folks!!!) Simon asked me what I would like to do.... obviously when in Hanoi on your birthday there's only one answer...go and see Ho Chi Minh's cadaver in his mausoleum!! So that's what we're planning this morning. This morning Simon announced that in honour of my birthday we would go to the Green Papaya Restuarant tonight - of which there is no such place! The Green Mango on the other hand is beyond his budget so it maybe on me!! :-)
We have another 3 full days after today and then off to BKK for the final countdown to coming home. (To be honest, I am missing everyone and looking forward to clean clothes)

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