Today myself and two other girls I've been traveling with for about a week made our way from Hue to the Phong Nha Farmstay, where we'll be doing some pretty amazing-sounding activities over the next few days. The trip here, however, was quite an adventure and was actually a perfect example of what a day in the life of a SE Asian backpacker is like.
Here is a run-down of how our day unfolded:
We arrived at the bus station this morning only to discover that our supposed 10:30 bus wouldn't actually be leaving until 11:30. A man with no uniform or ID tag and who may or may not have been an employee of the bus station told us to put our bags in a bus while we waited inside the station.
During our wait we wanted to use the toilet but the Vietnamese ladies guarding it said it would set us back 25 cents. (This is for a squat toilet with no toilet paper, running water or soap). Instead of paying we decided to "do as the Romans do" and pop a squat behind a bus. Classy, I know.
When we were finally called over to get onto the bus we found a man on top of it making some last minute repairs with what appeared to be superglue. Upon boarding the bus we realized why it was being repaired: it was the most dilapidated bus I had ever seen, one that would surely not have been allowed to hold passengers in most developed countries. We chose our (completely broken and very uncomfortable) seats and the bus set off, with a man (a bus employee, we think?) holding the door closed with his right foot.
|Terrible photo, but note the foot...|
The bus drove at breakneck speeds, overtaking other vehicles and teenagers on bikes and nearly colliding with a massive truck towing about 30 large trees. Keep in mind there are at least 3 babies on the bus, none of whom are in car seats. We drove by a pretty serious motorbike accident that left a woman's face covered in blood. We also passed by a sign in Vietnamese with the only English words being 'Good Luck!' I guess they knew people driving on this road would need it.
|One of the babies|
A while later we stopped to pick up some passengers on the side of the road (a pretty common occurrence in this part of the world, but how they know who to pick up is beyond me). For reasons unknown to us, a small fight broke out between the maybe-employee who was holding the door closed with his foot and another man who had been standing by the road. Heated words and even a few punches were exchanged until someone stepped in and pulled them apart, then we set off again as if nothing had happened. By this stage in the journey the people on the bus outnumbered the amount of seats, forcing some to sit in the aisle.
|Hard to see but it was majorly crowded!|
But it wasn't all bad: In addition to all the madness typical of bus journeys in SE Asia the scenery was, as usual, completely captivating. We passed more rice paddies than I could count, each a different shade of green; children riding bikes a few sizes too big with younger siblings on the back; men on red plastic chairs playing a friendly game of cards; women in conical hats selling the day's produce... the list goes on and on.
|One of the many rice fields|
Upon arriving at our destination (which is deep in the Vietnamese countryside and amazing in every way) we immediately knew that our trip had been well worth the effort/risk of injury, a realization I've had many times over the last five months I've been traveling here.
|Near the Phong Nha Farmstay|
My point of this post was not to whine or complain but to give an
account of a typical travel day here in the frustrating and yet wonderful world of SE Asia. Amidst all the ridiculous (and sometimes dangerous) things that happen here you're almost always rewarded with an extraordinary experience or at the very least, a funny story to tell.
|Hanging with some awesome kids|
Oh, in case you're wondering about the name of this blog post it's yet another thing that made today such a stereotypical day in SE Asia: I needed to buy a hoodie (I lost my only one weeks ago) but my options were limited, so I went with a little gray number which, like most clothing you buy here with English written on it, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. What does it say you ask? '67 See You'.
|67 See You - just incredible|
SE Asia, I love you.