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Bad bus journey and getting to Danang
Hello! It's now Friday and we're finally in civilisation. We've been GENUINE
travellers for the last few days, and it so hard!
We booked a bus from Vientiane to take us to Vietnam's boarder crossing - Loa Boa.
There will be no suprise I'm sure, when I tell this was another bus journey
hell. Well, really, it was beyond hell. It couldn't have been worse unless everyone
had guns. Which, fortunately, they didn't.
We were told, as usual, that the bus was nice, only took 10 hours, was a tourist
bus but may let locals on, they even showed us a nice picture.... etc etc. I don't
know why we even believed them after last time, but we did. We got to the bus
station on Tues at about 7pm and had to ask about 8,000 locals which bus we're
meant to be on, as the busses ALL looked pretty shit and noone was organising
anything. Us girls and the other westeners we were with (about 6 from Italy) found
the bus after much ignored questions and shouting. It was the most knackered bus
you've ever seen.
All us westeners get on and stay up the bak of the bus. It was awful. The seats
were really small with no legroom, no aircon, it was really cramped. They then
started throwing all our bags through the windows and expected them all to be
around our feet, rather than under the bus in the hold. THEN all the locals got on
- with briefcases
(they couldn't look less like they should carry a briefcase, so it was immediately
very suspicious). There were not just enough dodgy-looking-locals to fill the bus,
but enough to sit down all along the isle too - on little childrens', plastic
stools. So once again we'd been lied to, it was not a tourist bus which locals
could get, WE were actually crashing their bus, and they only too pleased to make
us aware of this. They had really loud music on (which sounded like bollywood
music), and just revelled in making us feel as uncomfortable as possible. They
turned around, stared, laughed, and literally sat in between you on the floor and
rested their heads on your seats, or even you. PERSONAL SPACE!!!!
We were feeling extremely pissed off by this time and we hadn't even set off yet.
When we did get going, we didn't actually go in the direction of the boarder,
instead we drove all around the city, stopping off at random people's houses and
picking up 'parcels' from them to take over the boarder. They kept turning the
lights on and off, so it was in pitch darkness and as soon as you'd get used to and
think maybe you could sleep, they'd turn them back on. They did the same with the
music, and the video. The driver drove really fast and swerved around everything at
about 60mph, which is fast on their stupid little roads. I don't think I can even
begin to convey how stressful it was. One man even hit Lizzi on the arm when she
told him noone could sit down next to her. It would be ok if it was a 3 or 4 hour
journey, but this was constant , for over 18 hours. There was one woman on the bus,
(who kept eating dried fish and stinking out the bus), who had the loudest, most
piercing voice in the world and didn't shut up for hours on end. One man had his
dirty head/hair resting on Lizzi for about 10 hours. She kept brusing him off but
he just came back, I don't know how she coped. The men on the bus were all really
dirty, trampy looking men. Who were filthy and sat writhing around in their seats
and touching everything in sight.
They were very dodgy anyway and we knew after all the suspicious looking locals
with briefcases and the pick ups tht they were smuggling drugs into Vietnam. This
was comounded when we stopped on the side of a road, in the pitch black, in the
middle of nowhere and about 8 locals and the driver got off. They pulled a huge
sack of rice out of the hold and opened it up. They pulled lots of small parcels
out of the rice and re-did the rice. One of the men slid under the bus on his back,
and the others passed him the little parcels. I watched this entire thing and was
just thinking - could this God damn bus GET any worse??!!! As well as having the
ride from hell, we're smuggling drugs in under our bus.
We arrived at the boarder of Vietnam at about 5am and sat around for TWO hours
waiting for the boarder crossing to open and the guards to come on duty. Which begs
the question why they even set off so early if they clearly KNOW it isn't going to
be open until 7am. The locals were getting very hyper and playing music loud and
pulling things out of the hold and rearranging things. Sorting our Visa's took
about an hour and a half. The guards make a point of serving all the locals first
and making the 'foreigners' wait til the last- and adding a small charge for the
pleasure. It was better than sitting on the bus though.
After sorting our visa's out on the Laos side, we had to walk for about 1/2 mile to
the Vietnam boarder to get the Visa's stamped again and have all out luggage
scanned. The fog was really bad and you couldn't see 20 feet infornt of you. By
this time we were all starving as we'd had nothing to eat for hours.
After sorting our Visa's we had more bus fun. The bus had, for some reason, filled
all the insode of the bus with huge tyres. At the place where the bus should
collect you from, he just drove straight past us and left us all standing there not
knowing what was going on. The Vietnam boarder is generally considered quite
dangerous, as the Laos and Vietnamese don't get on. So it was nice to be suck in
between the two with armed guards around, not having a clue what was going on. For
all we knew they'd done one and were leaving us there. We were meant to heading to
a city called Vin. After about 20 minutes they came back with no tyres inside the
bus, we got on and drove about 10 minutes. We stopped and all the tyres were
scattered on the side of the road. They put these all back on the roof or in the
hold. We have no idea what this was about, but everything else they did was
suspicious so no doubt this was too. The horrible noisy, fish-eating lady was
walking around with loads of huge dead lizards in a big bottle of solution, it was
We got to Vin at about 1pm (wed), a lot later than we expected. We headed off with
Karl who we had befriended in Vientiane to try to find a place to stay for the
night, as we didn't think we could face anymore travelling. After walking with our
huge rucsacks for about half an hour, finding absolutely nothing, we were really
giving up the will to live. Vin, despite being a large city, is not used to
westeners AT ALL. And does not have any facilities to cater to them. We couldn't
even find somewhere to eat. Everyone stared at us, little children ran off shouting
and pointing for people to come and look at us. The army got particularly excited
at seeing us and shouted, "White girls!!" and all stopped to stare at us. We were
stressed and tired from the journey. None of our guide books had anything about Vin
in them, suprisingly! So we didn't know what to do. We decided to walk back to the
bus station and found a hotel on route. We had decided by this time that it would
be best if we left Vin asap as they was nothing there for us and would be a waste
of money staying. We asked the hotel to feed us and a menu arrived serving weasel
and tortoise(photo)! Not what we'd expected, obviously, but it was our only choice.
I think we pretty much all had soup, as it was the safest option.
We decided to catch the train to Danang, as it was a beach destination and we
really needed a break. We somehow managed to make a train motion to one of the taxi
drivers, in order to get the point across - as noone spoke even pigeon English.
When you spoke to a local on the street, about 60 cam out of nowhere and surrounded
you. It was very frustrating, as you couldn't communicated at all.
The train was fab, especially after so many hours cramped on the bus from hell. We
got a private carriage for 4, with bunkbeds attached to the wall. To just lie down
insteadof sitting up was a dream come true. We got on the train at 6.35pm (wed) and
were all asleep by about 7.30/8pm. We slept solidly until 3.50am when the guard
unlocked our door and told us we were about to arrive at Danang.
We ask a taxi to take us to the hotel we like the look of, he wasn't sure where it
was so another said he'd take us. This guy was THE worst driver in the world and
not only drove at about 30 miles, everywhere, but he continually stalled, switched
his lights from full to normal beam - FOR NO REASON, and beeped his horn at
everything! He drove us around for 2 whole hours, not speaking any english, not
knowing where he was going and taking us out into deserted roads. We were getting
mad and planning how to through him out of the car so we could drive ourselves.
After two hours we found a hotel but had no idea where we were. We just shouted at
him to stop and got out. He then wanted us to pay him $10 USD. We were all shouting
at him telling him he wasn't getting anything. He'd lied to us, wasted 2 hours and
didn't even take us where we wanted to be. We were livid, but he wouldn't let up.
The lady in hotel helped us sort everything out.
The hotel we ended up in was actually quite nice and was near where we wanted to
be, it was called the Sun hotel. To our delight it had air con, a fridge, tv (with
sky!!!) and a decent toilet and shower. It was $13 a night for 2. As we had arrived
at this hotel at about 6am, we went straight to bed... with Sienfeld on in the
background, arr. We headed off to the beach and met a local guy called Huynh, who
spoke excellent English. He had been in the Vietnam war (on our side) and learned
English off the Americans. He told us all about his life, his time in the army, how
his letters from his late wife had saved his life from a bullet and how he was in a
room with 14 other soldiers when a bomb went off and he was the only survivor. He
was so interesting, so we spent all day with him. The local kids came to the beach
about 5pm when it started getting darker and they were very interested in us. They
were breakdancing infront of us and trying to get our attention, so we went
swimming with them and took loads of photos of them and showed them what they
looked like, this was clearly a good move, as they looked after us in the sea and
escorted us home, bless.
Lst night we found a good/ nice taxi driver and arranged for him to pick us up from
our nice hotel and take us for food and a little shopping jaunt. We ended up a this
little restanrant called Au Lac, which was gorgeous. It was really modern and had
lovely decor, food and rinks. It was still really cheap and I got a crascking
tenderloin steak (Aussie best beef) and potatoe gratin for about 5 quid! Well done
us! By the time we'd finshed eating all the shops had closed, so we got the taxi
driver to some first thing the next morning (today, friday) and we spent about 3
hours in various huge supermarkets and shopping malls. Western food was the
highlight. I found 'Werthers Original' and shortbread!!!! We got some baguettes and
phildelphia spread and just sat on the curb and made our own sandwiches. They were
fab! The highlight of the day so far!
Huynh advised us of a place to stay further down the coast yesterday, called 'Hao's
Place' which has a major reputuation with travellers. The taxi driver took us back
to the hotel and dropped us at Hao's place this afternnon. We will be here for the
next few days at least. He has 19 guest books in his 'reception' from previous
guests and it couldn't sound more perfect: bonfires on the beach for all guests,
communal dinners (of apparantly exquisite food and the world's best prawn spring
rolls) and a genuinely warm, welcoming host. The beach is pleasant and is about 20
meters from the guest house. We will enjoy doing nothing here for a bit, especially
after our traumatic journey just to get here. We will mostly be sunbathing for the
next 3 days. I shall update when possible, although the internet cafe is about 3
miles away and it not the best anyway.
I apologise for the spelling, I have been on the internet now for 3 hours and have
no time to spell check. I'm sure you get the jist anyway. The photos are quite
good, if I do say so myself. We will be moving down the coast in the next few days,
but I have no idea where to as yet. Take care xxx