All aboard the bus journey from hell!

After a wonderful three days on the beaches of Phu Quoc, we were lured back to Ha Tien mainly by indecision. We had planned to go straight back to Cambodia but, once we were there, we dithered. Why were we rushing to leave? We love Vietnam and it seemed crazy to go when we had no fixed itinerary and 30 days of visa to use. We decided to take the Ha Tien to Can Tho bus, and spend a couple of days exploring the Mekong region.

If we had been more decisive, we could have headed to Rach Gia straight from Phu Quoc and shortened our journey massively, but we were where we were. Ha Tien to Can Tho would be our next adventure. Alas, the only direct buses from Ha Tien to Can Tho leave at the grossly insensible times of 5am and 6am, so at the advice of the wise Andy from Oasis Bar, we decided to take a bus to Rach Gia and change for Can Tho there. Unfortunately, we arrived at the bus station in a 90-minute lull between such buses and somehow got persuaded by two Vietnamese chaps that another bus – this time going via Long Xuyen to the north – was an equally viable option. A pox upon those men, is all I have to say about that. Travel tip – if you are being persuaded to board a bus by touts with fly-like persistency, run like the ruddy wind. These people are not your friends.

Anyway, the fun began with the loading of the bags. We were sent away from our chosen seats at the back of the bus and the reason quickly became apparent; the rear third of the bus became a luggage storage from floor to ceiling, with a small hidey-hole where the bus conductor folded herself in to. I can only assume someone was moving house and using the bus to save on removals costs.

This would be the luggage rack
This would be the luggage rack

Once full, we lurched out of the bus station for the advertised five hour journey. The pace was painfully slow and we rattled, bounced and inched our way down the road. Intermittently we’d be flagged down and joined by more passengers – the bus was full when we left so extra seating was provided in the form of plastic stools passed down the bus from the now-invisible conductor.

Improvised seating in the aisles...
Improvised seating in the aisles…

The day was baking hot, and there were no fans or air conditioning (I know – the humanity!). The grimy butterscotch-coloured curtains flapped impotently in the sticky-warm breeze, and the smell of dried fish and smoke (oh yes! Smoking is totally ok on Vietnamese buses) hung in the air. There were no rest stops, so drinking water was a bad idea. I think Craig enjoyed it though…

Craig: not loving the bus
Craig: not loving the bus

After six hours we arrived at Long Xuyen for our bus changeover, and virtually flung ourselves out of the window to be free. At that point it transpired that water had leaked into the dried fish box, which had then sent a trickle of fishy water down on to our bags and my shoes, which now smelt like the Armpit of Evil.

A short two hour later, we virtually crawled out of the second bus. Our five hour bus journey had taken over eight hours without water, and I now smelt strongly of fish. The complaint letter to the bus touts is still in draft form, but let me tell you – it will be strongly worded.

7 Comments

  1. Amy said:

    Ha, what fun! I think all of our Asian bus journeys have been hellish to different degrees; whenever someone tells us how long the journey should take we automatically add on two hours for delays, traffic and/or breakdowns. We’re so lucky to have the Megabus and National Express in the UK!

    February 10, 2015
    Reply
    • Katie said:

      Yes, two hours is definitely a sensible margin. We have’t suffered a breakdown (of the bus at least…) yet – touch wood!

      Ironically we never used the Megabus or National Express in the UK – I thought they took too long… I didn’t know I was BORN!

      February 10, 2015
      Reply
  2. Lee said:

    Oh joy, we have this journey to look forward to tomorrow. Now I’m scared…

    June 22, 2015
    Reply
    • Katie said:

      Haha! It’s all character building Lee! I hope it wasn’t too traumatic for you!

      June 25, 2015
      Reply
  3. I feel for you but to leave with your bags covered in fish juice. Ewwww hahahaha. That really sucks. Bus journeys never go well in Asia right?! I think Cambodia has to be the worst for me so far.

    January 9, 2016
    Reply
    • Katie said:

      It was deeply upsetting Alice, although my fishy shoes were the final insult!
      Hope you are enjoying your adventures! X

      January 14, 2016
      Reply

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