Sunday, January 15, 2012

Down and out, nearly, in Vietnam

Ever wondered what it's like to lose your credit cards, cash and passports in a third world country?  Al and I are in the process of finding out.

Also finding out about sleeping on cramped buses overnight, then swapping to another cramped dirty sleeping bus for the second part of the journey from Ninh Binh in north Vietnam, via Hue to Danang and Hoi An.  Big ride that one.  Potholes. two lanes.  Suicidal traffic.  Top speed maybe 70 k, occasionally, but mostly about 50.  All up, about 20 hours.  Because foolish me wanted to do the overland trip, rather than flying and seeing nothing.  Didn't the fact that we were the only old people on board tell me anything?

Picked up sleeping bus in Hanoi originally.  Thought it seemed all right.  Was only a 2 and a half hour journey.  Bus was near empty.  We can do this, we thought.  Not bad at all.

But Ninh Binh onwards was quite different.  Caught the bus an hour after it was scheduled to leave.  Told through hand gestures that after removing and plastic bagging our shoes we needed to squeeze down the back.  Hard enough in itself.  Two sleepers were left.  In a dark, barely ventilated, coffin-like pod.  Immediately started hyperventilating of course.  Sat hunched over for a while - no head room.  Eventually battled claustrophobia and settled. Slept, sort of, through a bumpy dream beleaguered few hours of the night.  Not so poor Al.  He's tall and didn't fit.

Ordered off bus at Hue.  'You take taxi.  Meet at office.  1.30.'  Can't describe - nor want to - the tone.  Let's call it imperative.

Which office?  Where? 

Some local touts put us in their dodgy van and 4 k and 'three dollar US' we were there.

Quick lunch, then onto a different older bus for the Hue to Hoi An leg.  More spacious, but grotty, with a suspicious little stain where a previous bumhole had been on my lift -off mattress.

Who cared?  Al was totally bloodshot, but I'd snatched a few naps along the way.

Finally arrived in Hoi An, a place with which we're quite familiar, having sojourned here on three previous visits.

Maybe that caused us to relax a little.  Or perhaps it was relief to get off the bus after 20 hours.  But that was when Al left his money belt on the bus.

Upon discovery, he left me forlorn on a darkening corner and ran back to the drop off point.  We'd already seen the bus leave but the driver was contacted within 20 minutes of us leaving the bus.  He hadn't picked up any more passengers, and 'he knew nothing'.  And that's the line at Camel Travel, the bus company.  What can they do?  We're the idiots abroad.

Sunday today, so police and Australian consulate are having a slow day.  We have a bit of cash, given my secret emergency stash.  Who knew I'd need it?

The worst thing:  that feeling of despair, sick in the tummy, when you're a grown up - old now - and you've done something really dumb.  All the rest is a first world problem which I hope will be fairly easily resolved tomorrow.  Spoils the beautiful Hoi An day though.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Lord! Only just read this, sorry very behind. I hope that by now you have money and all the documents necessary. What a nightmare.
    I guess it'll be more to blog about?
    I am taking notes so I don't travel through Vietnam in the same manner! Ugh.