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.
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.
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…
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.