13.02.2014 - 13.02.2014
I did some calculations and in the last couple of months I've spent 170 hours and travelled just under 7,000 km (feels a lot further on some of the dodgiest roads in the world) on local and sleeper buses from Bangkok, through Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos back to Bangkok. Not only is it the most cost effective way to travel, but also the most interesting and cliched as it is, you do see more. Nevertheless, long hours on often dodgy buses with a vast array of locals and other travellers has made for some interesting situations.
Back at the start, I remember complaining about a 6 hour train ride followed by a 3 hour air-con minibus trip...little did I know. I did learn one very important piece of life knowledge on this trip. Do not sit next to the toilet. No matter how much you want a window seat.
In Cambodia, the trip from Siem Reap to Phnom Pehn is supposed to take about 6 hours, ended up taking 12, due to the drivers very frequent smoking habit and when it began to pour, apparently the bus couldn't work in the rain so we waited undercover for 2hrs until it stopped.
Vietnam honestly has some of the best buses in the world. Clean, comfy seats that actually go all the way flat and wifi! Nevertheless, the Vietnamese population seem to be chronically motion sick and I've seen and heard things I never ever need to again (why am I studying nursing?).
The journey from Hoi An to Hanoi was an absolute saga. We were picked up 2 hours late from our hostel before getting on the crappiest bus I've ever seen. Thankfully this was only to Hue, about 3 hours away. However in this 3 hours we stopped 3 times for 3 flat tires, there was a gap between the roof and the window so I was soaked from the rain and had some random literally pass out on my shoulder. At Hue, we were so late it was mad rush to get on the sleeper bus, but we couldn't leave because there was some disagreement over seats between three people who didn't speak a common language. No one had any idea what was going on and it went on for about an hour. Eventually someone stormed off the bus in a fit. Finally we could leave. I'll literally sleep anywhere, but its pretty disconcerting to have two Vietnamese guys stare are you literally non stop for the entire 12 hours. There was another girl with me and we both felt really uncomfortable. So that was fun. Couldn't have been happier to get to Hanoi.
Known as the 'bus ride from hell' the 30 hour trip from Hanoi to Luang Prabang was the next undertaking. It absolutely was not THAT bad. Its just a hell of a long time. The seats were set up though so that I couldn't sit up without hitting my head which meant I had to lie down the entire time, and I was so so glad to have people I knew on the same bus. The border crossing was nowhere near as bad as I'd been told it would be, I really don't know what people were on about. Quite a plesant suprise really, although I did sleep an awful lot so that helped.
From there two overnight buses in a row got me to the south of Laos. And a couple more back to Bangkok.
Circling Myanmar by bus was more or less uneventful apart from two main things. Apparently the standard temperature in buses overnight is sub 0, it didn't matter how many blankets you could get your hands on it was fricking freezing. And that all their overnight buses arrive at 2 or 3am which leads to wandering (or taking a horse and cart) around cites in the dark trying to find somewhere to sleep...or you know...sleeping on a park bench..that happened.
All in all though, I'd never choose a different way to travel.