Coming to Vietnam on Wednesday began pretty smoothly. We were picked up at 10:30 as we had been told and went to the boarder in a nice little mini-bus. Crossing the boarder was surprisingly easy- no queing at all like when we went into Cambodia and no-one tried to rip us off like some of the stories we've heard.
However, when we got to Hat Tien, 40 minutes from the boarder, we were told we had to change buses. We knew this would happen, we'd been told that at Hat Tien we would get on a "big bus with a toilet" to take us to Ho Chi Minh City. On reaching Hat Tien though we were told we had to wait 2 hours for the big bus. That meant the big bus wasn't leaving until 14:00 and we'd been told we would get to Ho Chi Minh for 19:00, but we thought "ok maybe it's not actually that far to get there." But then people started talking and saying the bus takes 8 then someone else said 10 hours!! So we didn't know what to expect.
The big bus came which was actually a local bus with no toilet (we were back on restricted fluid intake!) The bus was alright though, for most of it we had 2 seats each so we could spread out. The driver was crazy though, he didn't even stop properly when people were getting on and off they had to jump!! And when overtaking he would hold his hand on the horn and floor the accelerator with little regard for whatever was coming the other way!
We waited and waited for a food stop that the long bus journeys normally have. By this point I was pretty hungry as I hadn't eaten since breakfast at 9 that morning (mister Al had a little noodle soup thing while we were waiting for the big bus but I really didn't like the look of it)! At 18:00 we pulled up but there was no food to be seen, just a filthy, smelly squat toilet! It was now we plucked up the courage to ask the driver when we would get there- apparently 8pm, so we only had 2 more hours to go!! We thought this was great, only an hour later than we'd been told when we booked the bus so we started drinking again and talking about all the things we wanted to eat once we got there,
8pm came, the bus pulled up, we all got off and were hounded by taxi men (pretty scary actually) but the bus driver marched us to an office in the car park and pointed to another mini-bus full of Vietnamese people but with 4 squashy seats at the back empty- these were for me, mister Al and the 2 other westerners with us. All dreams of food we'd spent the last 2 hours talking about immediately vanished and I regretted drinking the water we'd just drank. We were told we would be on this bus for 2 hours so we thought "that takes us to 22:00 that's fine, we will just get on with it." So we got on the back seats with our legs up our armpits and off we went, (not before having a drama as we thought mister Al's bag hadn't made it on the bus, it had it was just hidden). This bus was also a local mini-bus so people were hopping on and off at roads in the middle of no-where,
At 21:30 the bus pulled into the Vietnamese equivalent to a service station making our hearts sink- the bus wouldn't stop if we were only half an hour away. We tried to ask the driver when we would reach Ho Chi Minh City but he couldn't speak much English and kept saying 3. So we tried to ask a Vietnamese girl on the bus who also told us 3, I said to her "3 in the morning we get there?" and she said "yes" we really couldn't believe that was true! In Vietnam the currency is US dollars (like in Cambodia) and dong. We had dollars from Cambodia and a small amount of dong which was change given to mister Al when he had bought his noodle soup at Hat Tien. So first we used the dong to buy some water and crisps to snack on for the journey and then went to order some noodles from the service station restaurant. Only they told us they didn't take dollars there. There was no cash point so all the dong we had left from the crisps was just enough to buy one portion of noodles and veg to share. Only the waitress misunderstood what I asked for and brought us beef noodle soup, more dong than we had on us. I nearly started crying as they were asking for the money and we were trying to give them dollars and explaining it wasn't what we ordered. Eventually they understood and did bring us the veg noodles so we managed to have a little to eat.
Shortly after leaving the service station a young lad got on the bus with a big polystyrene box and sat in-front of us. After a while, as I was pulling my thighs off the sticky materiel of the seats, I noticed the lad looking under the seats in front of him using his phone as a torch, now bear in mind the bus was pitch black. Just as the lad moved to look under his seat at our feet mister Al let out a kind of shout/scream saying "get off" as he pulled his feet up. This made me start shouting and grabbing his bag at his feet as I thought (due to all the stories we've heard of whats happened to other travelers) that the lad thought we were asleep and was after mister Al's day bag that contained the laptop. However that wasn't the case, (sorry my mind instantly jumped to that conclusion), something wet had slipped and slid over mister Als' foot, making a funny sound as he moved his foot!!! Us 4 Westerners on the back seat now turned our attention to the young lad's polystyrene box on the floor. The lady on the back with us saw him open it quickly and saw it was full of water with long black wriggly things in it- we're hoping eels and not water snakes! One must have escaped and the lad had been watching it with his phone when it had slid over mister Al's foot. The lad then spent the rest of the journey with his foot on the lid of the box!
By now I felt really tested, tired, hungry with no idea what time we were getting to Ho Chi Minh, squashed and now daren't put my feet back on the floor so actually did have my knees up my armpits! Luckily at half past midnight the bus stopped and we were told we were there, only not quite there as we were on the outskirts of the city so had to pay $15 for a taxi to take us in (before this we realised we'd left our beachy/dirty washing bag on the bus parked only 100 meters away yet to get it back we had to pay a dollar!!)
Walking the streets at 1am we finally found somewhere to stay- Ha Vy hotel $12 a night right in the centre and the staff are lovely. We were only going to stay here 3 nights but we have tagged another on the end as the next bus trip to Nha Trang on the coast is another long one!
We forgot to tell people before we came to Vietnam that facebook isn't allowed here, not sure why, I know we can get it in some parts but at the moment we can't so contact us by email and mum let me know when you can skype!
lots of love xxxxxxxxxx