Journey: Ho Chi Minh City – Mui Ne
Bus Company: Phuong Trang (Futa Buslines)
Ticket Price: 145.000 vnd
Duration: 6-7-8 hours, Vietnamese time.
It’s peaceful, despite the noise.
The big orange bus has stopped for what now is amounting up to a good 50-60 minute pit-stop at a designated Futa Buslines rest station. The Vietnamese love songs are still playing, which appear to be having some sort of lullaby-like effect on many locals wedged in their bus-beds. Nobody is talking, given that it’s nearly 4.30am, the wee hours accented by the snoring.
You can leave your shoes in the plastic bags you were asked to place them in before you got on the bus and borrow some green and orange FUTA sandals to hop over to the bathroom. The ground looks sandy, beachy even, hinting that your destination (Mui Ne) is approaching. The station has an open restaurant and a small display of snacks for sale. I hurry to the bathroom and back to avoid being stranded.
My seat is the love child between a seat and a bed. Not only that, but it’s the bottom bunk. The seat-beds on these buses take on the form of bunk-beds, which in true Vietnamese fashion saves space through height. Luckily I only see the occasional dangle of feet from where I sit. You have to watch out for when the bus stops though, because your top-bunk neighbour may take liberties to suddenly jump down when you dare to emerge from your hobbit hole. It’s also a bit of a lottery which level you end up on depending on when you buy your ticket – bottom bunks go fast, so make sure you’ve got one!
As far as buses go in Vietnam, this is up there with one of the nicest and most reliable. Your seat feels like a personal cubicle. It’s a tad small, given my height compared with the average Vietnamese person, so I have to adjust. But the AC, accent lights and complimentary blanket help to make the journey cozy. I even managed to sleep like an Ox, which is saying something for someone like myself who struggles to master the art of sleeping on public transport.
Safety-wise, I feel good. People are mostly just here for the same reasons and are chilling in their own pods. Although I am keeping my iPad etc close-by, just in case. You never know.
These buses are mobile indicators of an ever-modernising Vietnam – on the move, hi-tech and enterprising (with destinations alll over the country). It’s a strange sight, when outside folks are selling dried squid and lottery tickets, when inside everyone’s on their iPhones and eating Pringles. It’s an indicator of things to come. Vietnam is modernising whilst staying distincly Vietnamese.
Taking the overnight bus in Vietnam can be a charming experience that you’ll come to love for it’s multitude of contradictions. Music is turned on to send you to sleep; the only toilet stop happens within the first two hours of a seven hour journey; the bed-seat/bunk-beds are both cozy and restrictive. With a little sense of humour and adventurous gusto, you’ll enjoy the ride.