Our journey from Cat Ba Island to Hue was laughably complex; it turns out that Vietnam is even less organised than Laos. I didn’t even think that was humanly possible!
First we all piled on a bus to the ferry port, as with every journey here the plastic stools were passed down for those who failed to nab seats. Then we got a speed boat to the mainland. So far so good. We were then crammed onto another bus which took us to a bus station, at which point we were transferred to a minibus to carry on the 4 hour journey to Ninh Binh. To say there was no room was an understatement. Men who were over 6 foot were made to sit in seats that a Vietnamese person would struggle in; thankfully we were able to get the best seats at the back with the most leg room, however the journey was still uncomfortable.
Once we had stopped a few times to pick up some mates (standard practice), we were on our way to Ninh Binh. At one point us westerners got a shock when looking out the window and spotting cow carcus after carcus lining the streets. Lots of picture taking insued, accompanied by some very strange looks from the Vietnamese at the front of the bus; they probably thought we’d never seen a cow or something.
Anyway, once that excitement was over we were dropped off in Ninh Binh, a god forsaken place where there is nothing of interest. We were dropped off on completely the wrong side of town, spent two hours trying to find a cafe with wifi so that we could contact the tour operator, had to eat a crappier version of KFC (does that even exist?! Yes. Yes it does) for lunch and at around 5pm finally got told a new pickup location, 15 minutes from where we were. We than spent another 3 hours sat in a gentleman’s hotel lobby, who had absolutely no idea we were coming or why we were there before finally being picked up by the sleeper bus just before 8pm.
We managed to get relatively good seat-beds and were glad to find that this bus was around 20 years newer than the previous sleeper we had caught in Laos, and a hell of a lot more comfy (although I still couldn’t straighten my legs). After hearing horror stories about blasting Vietnamese ballads and cockroaches, our ride to Hue was very comfortable, clean and silent. I actually managed to get about 4 hours sleep which is a miracle! The only notable event was when we stopped at 4am to cram two motorbikes into the luggage compartment (no idea, don’t even ask).
Arriving in Hue bus station at half 6 this morning, we made our way to our hotel to check in and were greeted with dragon fruit and banana. We can’t check in until half 10 so are currently having breakfast in a nearby restaurant. Hue has given us our first lot of torrential rain since we have been away and typically we have left all forms of waterproofs back at the hotel reception. Good one guys.
On a positive note, it looks like Hue is going to be a very pretty location for the next few days with tonnes to do!