For the journey to Hanoi we took the “bus trip from hell”, well that’s how it’s described in the many forums or blogs. It’s a 24 hour sleeper bus trip (or 30 as some people said) and a new experience for us! We loaded up on snacks and headed to the bus station, the bloggers had noted that you can’t get food along the way.
The seating was basically three rows of bunk beds! All the seats on the bus were ‘almost’ fully reclinable with your feet under the head rest of the seat in front. Unfortunately the seats were a couple of inches too short for me, and as many of the seats were broken (ours included) you were reclined the whole trip, even the unbroken seats only went to about 45 degrees. The top row had good windows. The bottom you only had a small strip higher up so couldn’t see out properly (we were in the bottom).
I watched as small rural Lao villages, lit by street lamps, slipped past my slit window before slowly drifting to sleep. At around midnight they turned on the lights, woke everyone and made them get off for a pee!! Boys to the front of the bus girls to the back - no chance to be precious then!!!
At about 5.00am we arrived at the border and as it didn’t open until 7.00am, we had time to sleep without rolling. The actual border crossing was “ok”. We did get a fair bit of trouble with our apec card which we expected. Airports see these cards all the time.... upland border crossings....not so much. They spent what felt like an eternity inspecting the card, looking at both sides, sniffing it (It didn’t smell like a diplomat). We both got anxious our bus was going to leave, it was about 8.00am and the prospect of hitchhiking wasn’t that appealing!!! They finally understood the card and let us through to rejoin our waiting bus.
After the border crossing many locals got off so we grabbed a couple of the unbroken, upper row seats- much better. This was fortunate as that day we wound our way down through the back roads of the central highlands, the scenery was spectacular. I’ve never seen so many free range ducks, if there is duck on the menu - I’m ordering it!
Despite the ‘no food horror stories’ the bus did stop for lunch of either noodle soups or rice dishes, all rather tasty. I think lying down and not moving we just weren’t hungry, so we finished with our bag full of snacks still.
We arrived into busy, bustling Hanoi around 6.30pm, only half an hour late. So 24.5 hours with the chance to sleep, spectacular views and a tasty lunch actually wasn’t all that bad. The ‘bus trip from hell’ bloggers need to harden up.