There are moments that mark us forever. For good and for bad. These moments can be big events like the birth of a child, our marriage, the realization of a dream, or they can be very small things. So small that we believe in a month they will no longer have an impact. It's not the case. We will never get on a bus in the same relaxed way again after this trip we took between Laos and Vietnam.
The day after Tock's wedding, where we drank too much, we woke up early at 6 in the morning to catch a bus to Dien Bien Phu, a city in northern Vietnam, close to the border and scene of a major battle in the Indochina war. We woke up not only with a hangover but also exhausted from the only 3 hours of sleep, we thought about not going. But the city we were in was not very interesting and we had already been there for 4 days, we couldn't take another one and on the other hand Vietnam was calling for us.
We knew it wasn't going to be easy. The trip we made from Luang Prabang to this city in Laos had prepared us for this. 6 hours for 150km with more than 6 stops, to go to the bathroom in the middle of the forest, to buy oranges, to have lunch and for the driver to do business along the way. This trip was going to take 8 hours and we still had a border in between. If it was today, I wouldn't have gone that day.
We get on the bus and the guy who collects the tickets immediately tells us where we have to sit, we look and there is no place to put our feet, the back of the bus is full of boxes and they throw our backpack for clothes, material goes with us, and under the seats there are more boxes and bags. My feet go on top of a box. Ivo sits by the door. The bus is not full. Two more French travelers enter, a daughter of Portuguese parents quickly starts a conversation with us that helps to pass the time. We try to sleep, but with the curves and the constant honking of the bus waiting for more people to enter it becomes difficult.
And more and more people are coming in. The bus has 15 seats but there are 24 people inside. In front of us, a man is practically seated on the lap of two girls, others sit on top of bags full of shells and other things that they take there, others go on foot. More curves and curves. Until there are three people already vomiting on the bus: one through the window, another making a lot of noise, and the other is me, silently. The headache is constant, so we don't get discouraged I don't say anything to Ivo and he doesn't say anything either but we both wanted to stop the bus and stay there in no man's land and maybe walk, or wait for a hitchhiking, anything that was better than that. A woman to balance herself squeezes my leg, the same one who looks at Ivo's feet to see if she can find a little space to sit there. If only they took the boxes, the bags, on top of the bus. My bench is broken and it wobbles at every turn, creaks at every hole. We stopped to go to the bathrooms, to have lunch and to drop off orders. At one of the stops, after more than 4 hours, the bus empties a little and I can sit next to the window and fall asleep.
People to go out have to go over the benches, one over the other.
We arrived at the border. All calm, fast and free of charge. We return to our bus from hell, which is still full of junk and whose driver gives bribes in cookies to customs guards to get through it all.
And quickly the errands begin, stopping here and there to deliver goods. Until we reach our destination: Dien Bien
We went to the best hotel in town, about 10€ a night, with hot water, internet, balcony and very clean. We went out to see the city and have something to eat, since we hadn't had anything in our stomachs since the night before. We knew that from there we were waiting for 7 hours by bus to Sapa or 10 to Hanoi. We couldn't catch the bus the next day, we didn't have the strength. We stayed one more night, from Saturday to Sunday. We woke up on Sunday morning, no light. We asked and were told that on Sundays in the city they always cut the light. We couldn't believe it, let's hope it's not like that in all of Vietnam.
And then at the end of the afternoon there we took the bus to Hanoi. We would have liked to go to Sapa, but that bus trip changed us and going to Sapa involved at least two more trips on the bus from hell. We couldn't.
The trip to Hanoi was on a sleeping bus, we were ahead of everything and managed to charge the iPad, meanwhile Vietnamese music was blaring. We stopped for dinner and then slept, ending up only stopping when we arrived in Hanoi. It wasn't as bad as the other one. It served to take the panic out of us. But Vietnam is big and there is still a long way to go.