Hurtling to Hanoi….

6 May

So, escape from Saigon to try and get to Hanoi for embassy opening time on Monday. Around 48 hours of bus journey in the middle of that…

Thursday

Finally I have to wake my hostess to get out of the barricaded hotel. Fully laden with my rucksacks, I walk to the end of the road to get a pastry and coffee, then walk 100 metres in the other direction to the travel agents. Sure enough, a motorbike turns up to take me back to exactly where I bought coffee.  Sometimes they should just tell me where to turn up (on the other hand, other days the bus is 5km out of town)

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Onto the bus. The sleeper bus system is widespread in Vietnam, and you can buy a hop on hop off ticket all the way from Saigon to Hanoi. As is usual in Asia, lots of companies do it, but they all basically use the same system. On the face of it, it’s quite a good plan. Take one ordinary size bus, convert it to two levels, but have everyone reclining. It’s 3 rows single file, so you don’t end up crammed close to someone you don’t know (which can be a blessing or disaster, depending on who you get…..)

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So far so good. Unfortunately, the seats aren’t built to accommodate a normal sized European, and bizarrely the place where your feet go is curved, which means you can’t get your feet to the end. There’s no space for luggage, so my rucksack is lashed to the rudimentary parcel tray.

And then again, it’s only around $36 to get from one end of the country to another…

So we hurtle down the uneven roads of Vietnam… some are OK and some are a suspension designer’s nightmare. We thread our way past the blue and gold fishing boats, tidy gardens and orange dunes of Mui Ne. We race through seaside towns, caught between the sea and the mountains, brightly painted coral for sale outside the houses (naughty, naughty). In Nha Trang the light fades to sights of fishing lakes, endless beaches and the most gorgeous central reservation in the world – all frangipani and shrubbery. The soundtrack has morphed into a playlist of everyone’s nightmare tracks, including the Macarena and a reggae version of Jingle Bells, which is rendered even stranger  by being played in 40 degree heat in May.

Past scores of workers on the paddy fields nestling in the shadow of the mountains that loom over Ninh Truan and finally into Hoi An as sun rises.

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It’s actually a challenge finding an inexpensive hotel here, for reasons that might become obvious in my next post – but my moto driver knows one that’s reasonable, and it is… the clock is ticking and I need to see Hoi An and its multifarious charms. . .

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