As Quy Nhon was not a tourist location, there were no travel shops to book any transfers with to get out of town. Luckily, we managed to arrange a minibus to our next destination with our hotel. It was at 5am in the morning though, which was not good. Who wants to get up that early on “holiday”????
With bags packed and waiting down stairs, the hotel taxi pulled up to take us to the minibus. We jumped in and with minutes to spare until the minibus departed (so we were told), the taxi proceeded to drive around and picked up another bloke. It eventually pulled up behind a Ford Transit minibus. As we exited the taxi, the minibus driver and assistant quickly grabbed our bags and threw them in the back. As I was getting on, he cupped my bum and pushed me on! Talk about in a rush. We were obviously on a schedule so it meant that we were going to get there sort of on time. The tickets to travel to our next destination, Hoi An, were only 150,000D (about £4) and was a four hour, 200km journey away. Bargain we thought.
There was only one person on the minibus when we got on who was sitting in the first of four rows. The minibus’ maximum occupancy stood at sixteen. Sixteen. Remember that. We sat on the third row. I didn’t want to sit at the back, as my experience in Thailand will haunt me for the rest of my life! With three people to a row, Stef and I had loads of space. The minibus set off and stopped a few times. There were still empty seats in front of us but at one of the stops, Stef moved up to allow some people on our row. I wasn’t happy and told her that she shouldn’t have given up the seats so easily as we could have had the space if no one else got on. Oh was I wrong.
They don’t have a bus service in this area of Vietnam. We soon discovered, it was just many privately owned minibuses driving around. To catch a minibus, all you have to do is wait by the side of the road. No bus stops. No bus stations. It couldn’t get any easier. The driver’s assistant sat near the side sliding doors and would shout out to people by the side of the road when the driver slowed down. It did sound a good idea to be able to get a “bus” wherever you stood, however, it did have one drawback. The bus was stopping or slowing down every few metres to see if people wanted to get on. It got quite annoying, however, with only sixteen seats to fill, the constant stopping or slowing down wouldn’t last long. Within a short time, we were at maximum occupancy. I was now near the window on the left and Stef was next to me. A family had got on and Stef now had a mother and daughter next to her. The daughter was about five years old and was munching on some spring roll type thing. It made me quite hungry as we’d both missed breakfast.
The bus kept slowing down for more people. With every person that got on, we’d both look at each other in disbelief. Within no time, the daughter was sitting on mum’s lap and our row was full. It was getting quite packed in the bus. There were now people STANDING in the aisles. At one point, I counted TWENTY-FIVE people. How mental is that!
Then it started getting ridiculous. They kept stopping for more people. Stef and I had seats and weren’t really feeling the squeeze, but I felt for the people standing. It got to a point where the small gap for the bags behind the rear seats were being used to “store” humans. They had to stand in a gap no bigger than the space between their belly button and bum! They had to breath in when the rear doors were shut, and that was only possible if the assistant used his foot to kick the doors into place. Every now and again, you’d hear someone shout from the back. The driver would stop and the “rear standers” would get off the bus as they had enough. But soon, enough, there were new bodies to store there. With big backpacks each, we were worried that to save space, they would just throw them out when no one was looking, but they stored them under the seats, which was quite handy as soon, it wasn’t possible to see anything apart from bodies when we looked back!
After a while, Stef noticed a sound coming from the back of the bus and told me to listen. Someone had brought on a box of baby chicks! As more people got on, this box full of the chicks was getting thrown about to make room. I felt sorry for them as the box was not that big and you could hear quite a few of them in it. But I could tell the people at the back were looking at the box thinking how lucky the chicks were as they had more space!
I counted again. THIRTY people.
There were people sitting on stranger’s lap. Young kids were sitting on random men’s laps. It was crazy. No one battered an eyelid though. How normal was this? Surely if the driver did this EVERY day, why did he not just invest in a coach!
Still, Stef and I were quite comfortable. We didn’t have much space to play with, but we were sitting like VIPs compared to the animals at the rear. Because we were tucked away, no one could really get to us to sit on our laps. But it soon turned to one of Stef’s journeys from hell!
I was looking out of the window when all of a sudden, Stef was grabbing at my arm. I turned to see what was going on. The little girl, who was now sitting on mum’s lap, was being sick. Now for all those that know Stef, you’ll know that she does not like sick. She doesn’t like being sick herself (but who does), but to see someone else being sick really gets to her. The girl couldn’t be any closer to Stef. This was a problem. The girl was sick all down Stef’s leg. The sick kept coming. Stef couldn’t move her legs anywhere. Stef started gagging, but luckily, wasn’t sick herself. The mum couldn’t really care less. She asked her husband sitting in front of her for a carrier bag and covered the girls face with it. It was too late by then. The damage had already been done and the memory will always be burned into Stef’s poor brain. With sick running down Stef’s leg, what could a mother possibly say or do to apologise for this very unlucky incident. Well, in this instance, nothing. NOTHING! She knew what had happened but didn’t even give Stef a look! I’m surprised Stef didn’t have a go. I had tissues in my bag so I handed them to Stef to clean her sick-ridden trousers – I obviously couldn’t clean them, as I just couldn’t get there. With all the fun and games cleaned up, the journey continued.
You can’t go anywhere in Vietnam without hearing someone coughing up a bit of phlegm. I don’t think you can get used to it. The assistant started handing out small carrier bags. On previous journeys, we’d always thought it was so they could spit the phlegm out. No. It was for sick. People were being sick all over the bus. It was so cramped, these poor people. This poor boy, the sick girls brother, was also having a bad time. He was filling bags up with sick like there was no tomorrow! In a cramped bus, where do you store sick bags? Yep, out the window they went! The mum threw it right past my face out of MY window. I nearly gagged. What if the bag leaked? I felt like moaning to Stef but with her still with a wet leg, I kept my mouth shut!
The mum just didn’t care about her kids. Stef nudged me at one point and the mum was asleep and using Stef’s shoulder as a pillow. Hilarious. Further along during the journey, the mum stood in the gap in front of the seat and let the girl sit on her own. Stef nudged me again and I turned to see this poorly girl resting her cheek on Stef’s arm. “If she’s sick again I’m gonna go crazy” Stef said. But she was fine.
At THIRTY people, the bus was at breaking point. It was only supposed to carry sixteen! It was too much for one of the tyres and it blew. This was a welcomed leg stretch stop for the standers of the bus but us sitters remained on the bus as not to lose our seats! The blowing of the tyre should have been a sign for them not to carry so many people. So what did they do after changing the tyre? That’s right. They folded down the rear seats so they could carry more people! Now instead of only being able to have about six people, it was like a bed and now they could store a lot more!
The family with kids got off when we stopped and returned with the kids eating and drinking. They’d already been sick once and now they were feeding them! Stef started to worry but as people got back on the bus, they sat in the row in front. I’ve never seen Stef so relieved.
The journey continued and we kept stopping for more people. In the end we counted FORTY PEOPLE! It was the craziest thing we have ever experienced. When the driver would slow down, you’d hear the people at the back start moaning. Poor things.
We finally made it to Danang and got a taxi the remainder of the journey. It was just a normal car but the legroom, compared to the minibus, felt like a limo!