Thief and groping: the dark side of night buses in Vietnam

After a few lovely, and sunny days in the coastal town of Mui Ne, I realised that I was still so far south, and had to make it up to Hanoi in 2 weeks, to fly to Bangkok to meet my sister. With still so much to see, I decided that I needed to move north to Hoi An.

 

There are various ways to get to Hoi An from Mui Ne – fly or get a train from Nha Trang to Danang or get a bus. As the bus was the cheaper option, I decided to get that. The cost was 357,000 Dong or  US$16, and the total travel time would be 18 hours!

 

I had previously been on long bus rides, like the one from Brunei to Kuching in Malaysia  as well as my fair share of scary journey’s, like Kratie to Siem Reap in Cambodia, and my tedious border crossings between Laos and Cambodia and Cambodia and Vietnam, as well as some one other sleeper bus (taken during the day from Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne). However, this was to be the longest consecutive journey, so I made sure all my devices were charged, and I had enough snacks and layers, and all those other things I take on board long bus rides in Asia. 

 

My journey started in Mui Ne and got to Nha Trang just after 7:15pm. It was already dark. The people in the bus ticket office were very unfriendly! I grabbed bread with jam for dinner and was ushered around the corner to the next bus. My rucksack had been chucked on the ground into a puddle and was wet (I knew I should have invested in a waterproof cover!)

Nightfall in Nha Trang, Vietnam
Nightfall in Nha Trang, Vietnam

I jumped on, taking a spot on an upper bed at the front of the bus.

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I then read a sign on the other side of the bus wall:

“Please know, your personal belongings may be stolen while you sleep. It is better to have belongings like laptop, camera, phone, under the bus.”

Who the heck is running this ship? The Artful dodger and the rest of Fagan’s gang?!

 

Despite this, I sat for the next hour or so finishing off a blog that I had drafted earlier that day, and managed to post it, using the variable WiFi, that was on the bus.

It got to 11pm, and I decided I’d try to get some sleep. So I put all my things away. Attached my camera to the railing and placed under my feet. My day pack got placed in between my legs!

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I slept on and off. The drivers cell phone rang a lot and various people were talking. The lights from the front of the bus were also swtiched on and off at random times, and the bus dirver decided to play some random rap music (sleeper bus my eye – more like a Vietnamese party bus, where you can have the opportunity to steal some valuables!)

1.13am – all the lights were put on. I squinted at the driver and he shouted “toilet, toilet, go-go”. We had pulled up at a fuel station and already a lot of the male passengers were standing by a nearby fence having a wee! Not knowing when our next stop would be, I took my chances and decided to go for a wee also. Luckily there was a toilet and it was clean with toilet paper!

On my way back there were three men on motorbikes, as before. One approached me and tried to grab my chest, I threw my arms up in defence and shouted “What the heck?! .. Don’t touch me!”

I got onto the bus, and stood on the first step to take off my flip flops (a requirement of sleeper buses is that you take off your outdoor shoes and place them in a plastic bag) and I felt a hand grab my bum. I turned around and it was the same motorbike driver. He grabbed his chest and pointed at me and said something in Vietnamese. I shook my head at him and said “You’re a disgusting man!”

The bus driver laughed at me as this happened.

From 1.20am to 2am we stopped three times, for other male passengers to get out to wee (like how much are you drinking!), then at 2am, the light of the bus came on and several people got off, including the driver and disappeared for at least 20 minutes – piling up a few boxes on the side of the street.

I probably slept on and off for an hour in between 2-3:30am. And in total about 2 hours of the entire journey through the night.

As it approached daylight the sounding of the horn increased, as is standard in Asia when one is attempting to overtake, they blast the horn several times. It is quite loud, so sleep was difficult after this.

We were due to arrive in Hoi an at 6am, but it was 7:25am by the time we stopped at another toilet stop in goodness knows where. We finally arrived after 8am, and I got hassled by a taxi driver on a motorbike. I had to pay 100,000 Dong (US $5!) to be taken to my hotel. I hadn’t got the energy to negotiate.

Needless to say, my experience of an overnight bus was less than positive. I did however take another overnight bus from Hue to Ninh Binh, later in my trip, and it was marginally better.

 

Have you experienced any dodgy overnight bus rides – share your stories in the comments below! 

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