Every traveller you meet who has been to South East Asia has a bus adventure gone bad story. Well I was no exception. This is my story:
I had been researching a lot about what our next stop should be after Hoi An. Hue is famous for The Citadel and the Imperial City and has been on UNESCO World Heritage list since 1993. It was also a convenient 3.5 hour bus ride away. I had read some mixed reviews about Hue but decided to give it a shot!
Booking the bus
I saw a lot of signs around Hoi An for a shuttle that went from Hoi An to Hue. I asked Quyn from my homestay to help me book this and she insisted that it was too expensive and that she would book me a different one instead. We were picked up from the homestay by a small mini bus, which was so overcrowded. This was definitely a sign of things to come…
Bus Driver Meltdown
After picking up everyone, we were then dropped off at the location of the Camel Travel bus. The bus itself was in pretty bad condition. It was run down, with old gross blankets thrown on each ‘bed’, which clearly hadn’t been washed anytime recently. The toilet was a bucket and absolutely stank. I decided not to drink any water to save myself the unpleasant experience. The bus manager was so unbelievably rude, shouting and snapping orders at everyone in broken English about where we can and cannot sleep. Sam and I and this other German couple got screamed at to move to the top bunk, which we quickly obliged. The German couple however refused to move seats and a screaming match took place for a solid five minutes before the bus driver got up and tried to kick them off the bus. Finally, the couple agreed to move and we were on our way. The bus driver stopped every few kilometres and picked up people on the side of the road who paid half the price we paid and laid down in the aisles. I guess me being forced to move up to the top bunk was a blessing in disguise…
Flooding in Hue
3.5 hours of being uncomfortable and anxious later, we finally arrived in Hue. But to my shock and horror (FYI I cannot swim) the streets were flooded. And not just a bit flooded – I’m talking up to my thighs flooded. (I am 5’2″ so not overly tall but still more water than a person should have to walk through). The bus then drives around the city and stops at a random location and tells us to get out. There was probably ten of us foreigners who got off the bus. The bus then leaves us stranded in the flood.
Stranded at Bus Stop
My plan had been to get dropped off at the bus station and find a taxi to take us to the hotel. I had loaded the route from the bus station to the hotel to show a taxi driver. Turns out the bus didn’t bother dropping us off at the bus station and just picked a random stop and told us to get out. I had zero idea where we were and it was getting dark outside. Only a couple of people had SIM cards and were trying to call a taxi. The town was completely flooded and the taxis were not running. By this time it was dark and we had to either decide to wait it out and hope that the water would stop and taxis could come or we had to make a break for it through the flood. We had no internet to find out where our hotel was. Luckily a German couple was in the same boat as us and we decided to brave the storm together. They had internet and let us find a map to our hotel. Because our hotels were in opposite directions we had to memorize our route and hope for the best! Off we started walking in the darkness with water up to our knees.
***TIP: I did not know this at the time but you can use Google Maps offline. All you need to do is download the map while you have internet and save it to your google account.
SWIMMING TO THE HOTEL
By the time we found the street our hotel was on the water was up to my thigh’s – at this point I was about to hop on my backpack and make a makeshift raft and float down the street. As this thought crossed my mind, we saw a guy with a flashlight and umbrella coming toward us and asking if we were Kater and Sam. An employee at the hotel we were staying out had been searching for us! It was such a relief to find him and eventually find our hotel.
Just a shoutout to Jade hotel in Hue, they seriously have the best employees and were so very helpful. If you are ever in Hue stay here! I cannot recommend this place enough.
- Always check which bus company you are taking before you get on/book
- Monsoon season in Vietnam is no joke
- Always get a SIM card for wifi and to be able to call the hotel
- Download a map ahead of time
- Have a backpack that is not too heavy – I literally saw a girl try to carry her roll on luggage and only made it about 10 feet before having to set it down and drag it through water!
Okay, your turn! Have you ever had a bad travel experience that turned into an epic story? I cannot wait to hear them!