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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Nineteen hours

The journey from Hoi An to Da Lat was always going to be a big one, but I had no idea quite what I was letting myself in for when I set off.

It began with myself and a handful of young British travellers standing in line for the bus and being, fairly almost violently, queue-jumped by a large group of old Croatian holiday-makers.

“fairly almost violently queue-jumped” : I doubt anyone has ever said anything so quintessentially British before.

Few seats remained when we eventually boarded: whisperingly lamenting our British conduct, because of course we did not want to create any tension by complaining audibly.

I had the final free seat, or rather bed (this was a sleeper bus): which was one in a set of three conjoining bunks, two of which were already occupied by an Asian couple.

I climbed up, inelegantly (of course), and resigned myself to being the big spoon in the weirdest cuddle puddle that I've ever being involved in.


I settle in as best I can and decide to watch 'The Godfather'. I have never seen this before (I know, shock, horror) and so I feel that this is as a good a time as any.

It was not: I could not follow the plot at all.

It was not a great copy of the movie and Marlon Brando's mumbles were all but entirely drowned out by the bus's engine. I struggled through, but I did not enjoy it as much as I'd hoped.

I only found out afterwards that the sections that are in Italian are supposed to have English subtitles: who knew?
This was not some quirky mysterious director's decision, which seems quite obvious now...


There was a brief interlude in my struggle: I was in the seat next to the toilet and a small queue had formed, whilst a man was waiting (patiently I am pleased to note) he began to lean on what I can only assume he thought was a pole.

It was in fact my leg.

I sat there, not wanting to say anything, slowly feeling my leg go numb, suffering full moments of pain to avoid two milliseconds of awkwardness: the longer it lasted, of course the more intensely I could not say anything...


We arrived in Nha Trang at 6am for a quick healthy breakfast of Pringles and coffee. Then our second bus arrived: only this time we were picked up by a small van, the very image of one my grandfather used to drive many moons ago.

This changeover was a baffling affair, with very little English spoken on the driver's side, and my Vietnamese being so, well, non-existent. We got in the van and hoped for the best.

I was convinced this van was taking us to a bigger bus, a sleeper bus. It was only when we hit the mountain roads, leaving the city behind us, that I was forced out of my denial.

When will I learn that even when you are so so sure, you really never know what your next 'bus' will be.

We sat in this van for the best part of 6 hours.


We arrived in Da Lat some nineteen hours after our original departure.


They say you learn a lot about yourself when you're travelling. I feel that this is certainly true of this journey: I found myself: I am an awkward over-polite Brit: funny how I had to come all the way to Vietnam to discover this.