Before reading this next Blog please be aware everything you are about to read is 100% real. You couldn’t even make this sh*t up!! As unbelievable and exhausting as it was, it’s all part of our travelling experience and makes a killer story to tell back. I just dread border crossings now.
As much as we loved Kampot and Cambodia, we were definitely ready and extremely excited to be heading on to Vietnam, our third country on our travels.
The day started well. We got up early and had some breakfast. We weren’t sure when the bus would stop for lunch, so wanted to be well fed. As always our pick up was late, but this is now a given. Once the pickup arrived, we were then taken to the ticket office where we had to wait for the bus to take us on our long journey over the border and into Vietnam. It was a pretty shabby bus and was really hot, and then every 5 minutes the driver would stop to take a call and then do a 16 point turn in the road then head back the way we had just come to collect random people from their hotels. It turns out they hadn’t been picked up by the previous transfer so our driver was having to go back and pile them on our bus. So after driving off, then turning back to pick up the third person, what had started off as comical was now becoming a bit annoying.
Finally we were on the road, no more calls to pick up strays, no more 16 point turns in the road, we were now back on track….That was until the engine cut out! Because the engine cut it meant no air con, so we all had to get off the bus to be able to even breathe. So then driver makes a call and about 5 minutes later a guy comes a long in his car, hops out with some rope and attached it to his car then the bus, drives along a bit until the bus jump starts. We all pile back on and drive off again. It was annoying but actually pretty amusing. We thought at least we were on the road again. It was even slightly amusing the second time it happened and we all had to get off and when the driver made people push the bus from behind to jump start it. It however wasn’t so amusing the third time it happened and he made people get off and push.
It wasn’t amusing hearing people almost refusing to get back on, and demanding another bus be sent. The most frustrating part was the fact that the people complaining and kicking off were people getting a transfer for a day trip to Kep which was the next town away. They didn’t have a border to cross and then another 8 hour journey to Ho Chi Minh City. So after the fourth time, it really wasn’t funny anymore. By this point the bus was dead, no longer with us. RIP wanky bus. With the driver speaking almost no English, he just shrugs, makes a quick call, then flags down a passing motorbike and heads off in the distance back to Kampot. So now everyone is getting frustrated. None of us know what’s going on or if a replacement will come. After about 30 minutes a mini bus came along, and said they were taking people on to Kep and the bus to Vietnam would be along next. Oh great prioritise the people travelling 20 minutes away. Not those that have boarder to cross. The jammy Gits looked pretty smug as they drove off. So around another 15 minutes later a second mini bus comes and before we even have time to grab our bags, it’s already completely full. So just me and Sam and one other couple are just left on the side of the road. Wondering if anyone is even going to come for us, wondering will we ever cross the bloody border. Another 15 minutes passed and then along pops the woman from the ticket office on her bike. She keeps saying sorry and the bus will be here soon. Finally it arrives and we ask if this is the bus that will be taking us all the way to Ho chi min. she says yes, so at least we know we are finally enroute.
On the way to the border we picked up a few people in kep, who had also been waiting for the delayed transfer. At least we knew it was delayed due to it breaking down. They were expecting to be picked up at 10.30 it was now 13:45! Every time someone new got on and said they were annoyed it was so delayed, we had to explain how it had broken down 4 times and the bus we were now on was actually a replacement.
We ended up sitting next to this German girl who was really pissed off and hungry and kept asking if anyone had any Oreos. We didn’t. After all that, it didn’t even take that long to reach the boarder and getting stamped out of Cambodia and into Vietnam was relatively easy. If the bus hadn’t had to go back and pick up strays and hadn’t broken down 4 times, then it probably would have taken just under 2 hours to cross the border.
So after crossing the border we drop a few people off at a bus station who were heading elsewhere then we were dropped off at a different ticket office. I should have realised this wasn’t going to be taking us all the way to Ho Chi Min. So then another twist in our tale…. We then discover due to the fact we had arrived 4 hours later than expected, that we had missed the transfer to Ho Chi Minh and we had been moved to the night bus which was at 19:00. The time we originally would have arrived to the city! So that meant we had almost 4 hours to wait until the next bus. There really was nothing we could actually do. So instead of kicking off and being a huge brat (which is what I would have done in the past) I just decided the only thing we could do was to have a beer and cool down.
As I recall this story it sounds so ridiculous, but it gets even more bizarre.
So after a while the German girl (definitely remember her name) has calmed down a bit and asks if we want to go find some food. Which of course we did, but we knew it meant we would have to deal with her moaning. She said she had walked past somewhere that was open, while she had been looking for an ATM. Oh so loads of places were closed because it was Tet/Chinese new year. So loads of smaller businesses close to go travel and be with family. So she took us to this place and although she did moan the whole time, the place she had found served the best Pho I have ever had and for that reason I loved her.
After our amazing meal and listening to the German girl moan some more, it was finally time to get our bus. The bus we were on was our first sleeper bus. The seats are like bunkbeds. There are a row of flat seats on the bottom and then a row on top. Out of all the sleeper buses we have experienced on our travels this was by far the best. It didn’t take long before I nodded off and I actually manged to sleep for around 6 hours.
Waking up at 3am once we had arrived to Ho Chi Minh. The bus station was a bit out of the centre so we shared a taxi to near our guesthouse with the German girl and two other people we had met on the bus.
As I recall this story it sounds so ridiculous, but it gets even more bizarre.
After about 15 minutes in the taxi, Sam and me bid our farewells and jumped out the taxi to find our guesthouse. There seemed to be a whole other city of mini streets within each block of buildings. So finding our guesthouse was proving a bit tricky, even with google maps. We then noticed that the shutters were down on all the other guesthouses. We hoped that ours had a 24 hour reception. No such luck. We managed to find it, but the shutters were down and there seemed no sign of a bell or any other way of getting in. we were so sleepy and getting grossed out by the amount of mutant rats that were running about. The only thing we thought we could do was either try find another place that didn’t have the shutters down, and was within budget or find somewhere to eat and kill time until things started opening. We ended up finding the Koh san road of HCM and a guy saw us walking around looking hopeless and suggest a hostel that might be open and have a room. Even as we passed the out of budget hotels it seemed like the light on reception was off! We somehow ended up down a tiny road and saw a security guard. He asked if we needed to find somewhere. We just nodded. He then starts banging on the closest shutter until someone on the other side pulls it up, says something in Vietnamese then said $25. We were like ermm $15 is our max budget. So he says ah okay. Then walks on a bit, we don’t know what else to do but follow him. This random security guard we have randomly bumped into at 4am in the morning. So as we are following him and watching him bang on shutters and be told no avaliabitly, we start to think how we even got in this situation. He kept leading us down these tiny roads. After a while we finally reached somewhere where there was actually a room available. I now know how Mary and Joseph felt. Finally there was room at the inn! We were led up 3 flights of very narrow stairs and taken into a small room. We handed over all the money we had on us, which was about $12. The security guard took his share then handed the rest to the owner of wherever we were. This was the most surreal situation. From the bus breaking down, Sam having to push the bus, missing our original bus, and then ending up following a security guard down alleyways at 4am! What had actually happened??!
Luckily we had Wi-Fi in the room, so found a place on booking.com and decided to go straight there after a few hours’ sleep. After a few hours of rest time we quickly grabbed our bags and got out of, where ever the hell we were. We just wondered to get our bearings and by some miracle came out in front of our new guesthouse. After everything in the last 24 hours we so grateful we had managed to find the new place so quickly.
Even as insane and made up as it sounds, this wasn’t even the worst border crossing story we’ve had! The next boarder crossing involves a broken leg, Pissed of people from Bolton and smuggling hundreds of items into Laos.