Sunday, November 18, 2007

The sleeper bus

About 90% of the hotels and guest houses in Vietnam also double as tour operators. Some legit some less so. Our hotel manager/tour operator talked us into taking a "sleeper bus" from Cat Ba Town to Hue which was our next destination. We had previously considered taking either a train or flying. "Oh, no... Sleeper bus better, cheaper, more comfortable..."

It was an 11 hr. ride. We met up with 3 other backing-packing travelers and we all took the upper bunk in the very rear of the bus. When several people came back yelling at us in Vietnamese we realized there were assigned seats. With gestures we indicated we weren't leaving and hunkered down as a bastion of stubborn foreigners. We began pointing to the seat assignment on our tickets and pointing in the other direction indicating they should just take our seats. This worked for most. However, one woman.... that onnnnne woman... she just kept yelling. Even without an interpreter we could tell several people around her were telling her to "just go to the other seat for crisssake". Eventually the bus driver intervened and she went away. Tracy said, looking back at us from the front, that we were one big white smudge in the back. What an experience. Being like a roller coaster ride it was dangerous to assume any position other than prone. I cracked my head on the ceiling a few times, smashed my mouth on the back rail, then realized I had better just lie down.

The bus slowed at one point in the middle of the night. It woke me out of my scarce sleep. I looked out of the window and saw what I thought was a roadside accident but then realized it was actually more like a funeral. A woman was lying on a stretcher obviously dead, hands crossed, face covered with one of their conical hats, she was ceremonially dressed. Nearby were lit candles and a coffin. It was so puzzling that this was happening in the dead of night by the side of the road. We often wished we had someone we could have explain to us what we were seeing.

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