Something to be Thankful For

Cramped into the tiny beds on the sleeper bus – well, one of us was cramped anyway – we cruised south, with the next three legs of the journey pretty much set.

We probably liked our first week in Hoi An better. The weather was brilliant, the hotel room as large as any we’ve had. We rode our bikes to the beach, drank bia hoi and chilled out in the UNESCO old town, a former trading post not unlike Melaka, which we visited last month.

I awoke at the start of our second week to pounding 4am rain. And so it was that winter announced its arrival to Hoi An. The rain came in the door and window and covered the floor. Even once we’d got that mopped up, we had a week of progressively cooler weather in front of us. I’m talking mid teens here –cold! We would see tourists still with board shorts and T-shirts and wonder if they were just stubborn or if they simply did not expect such weather in tropical southeast Asia and therefore didn’t have anything warmer. I know we weren’t expecting such weather.

The sleeper bus is full of foreigners, with a handful of locals, almost like a little backpacker slumber party. It’s strange riding through places at night, so devoid of life. We wonder what we might be missing blowing through these spots. Probably not much, but you never know.

We’re well on our way now. I think after six months on the road we’ve started to settle into our lifestyle. There is – to me anyway – a much greater sense of being a nomad. We like to take our time everywhere we go. I’m curious how that will play out in the next couple of months. We’ll be making more stops, all the while trying to maximize our happiness.

To that end, we’ve allowed a splurge – holidays in Hong Kong. We bought the ticket the other day. That city has been near the top of both of our lists for a while. As excited as we are, though, we have a few other things to take care of first.

All we know is that we’re headed south, with any luck away from the grey, rainy weather. It’s getting a bit tedious really. We rented a motorbike to ride into Da Nang to visit the brewpub. Of course it started raining. But armed with cheap plastic ponchos, hats and everything else we could think of, we managed to stay dry. Trying to get back out of the city in the rain, dark and Friday evening rush hour was another pleasure cruise altogether.
But all’s well that ends well and aside from doing a few extra loops around some of the roundabouts in the interest of safety, we were soon back at home.

We made some hot chocolate and flipped on the foreign news networks. We’ve seen BBC World, CNN International, Deutsche Weld, NHK, the French one, the Korean one and even the Australian one. So answer me this – where’s the CBC when you need it? Seriously, I want a Canucks game. Pick a Sunday morning and I’m there. I’m so hurtin’ I’ll take a Leafs game. Shudder.

End rant.

I wish, when you are reading this, that you could smell the incense burning at every shop, hear the horns from every vehicle, feel the mist and sit on the little kiddie seats at the street stalls. There’s just so much that cannot be conveyed, even with blog posts and photographs. We roll through a place like My Son, a small temple complex built for Champa kings hundreds of years ago, and we can only seen ruins and remnants. But all that’s happened here, it’s just hard to capture. Kings came for spiritual guidance and contemplation. The Viet Cong used the temples as a hideout, resulting in them being bombed. The ways in which this stuff resonates is hard to explain. But that’s why we’re out here.

The sleeper bus bounces and jostles its way down Highway 1, the main north-south highway in this decidedly north-south country. I can’t really sleep. Just like with any other bus, I’m still crammed in, albeit in horizontal format. I only start to get some rest when we finally come to a rest stop.

A really long rest stop.

When I awake from my rather fitful, cramped slumber, we are again stopped. Or still stopped. Hard to tell – I wasn’t conscious. But we’re not moving and none of the other vehicles around us are moving either. A glimpse to my right and the winding mountain highway is filled with vehicles, none moving.

We were stuck for goodness knows how long. We only got bits and pieces of information. There was an accident, that much we know for sure. Up at the pass, maybe on one of the bends…

Something To Be Thankful For

Hi it’s me Sunshine. The sleeper buses in Vietnam use recliners. Their beds stretch out almost all the way back, and there are two bunk levels. Josh and I were on the lower level, side by side. Along with the foreigners, several Vietnamese were on the bus including a wrinkly old lady. It’s true, people like me and the wrinkly old lady fit in the bed quite well. People like Josh fit in up to their knees. His legs extended all the way to the toilet. In Josh’s words, “The person sitting on the john can give me a foot massage.” I’m not sure he’d really want that.

The berths are better than seats but still not comfortable. They give you blankets but it’s still a bus ride. Sleep came in fits. After one fit, I awoke with a bad dream.

Somebody was lying dead in the middle of the road. A motorcyclist, surrounded by splatters of his own blood. In the dream I kept thinking about how this was the first accident we saw on the trip, in spite of the lawless traffic. After all, we’ve rented motorcycles several times so far. It’s scary but we’ve never seen or experienced even a near-miss. The dream was proof that shit happens. And we don’t even know what happened.

So I go back to sleep, wondering what the dream means. The next time I wake up, I discover that the bus is stopped on the side of the road. I look out the window and there is a long line of buses and trucks ahead and all around us. Something must have happened. I start to drift back off to sleep after checking the time. It’s 7:15 AM. As I drift, I overhear someone saying in English that there was an accident up ahead.

Thankfully the weather was cool. The engine was off and there was no air conditioning and the toilet couldn’t be used. There was nothing for me to do but get more sleep. Each time I woke up, I’d look outside and we hadn’t moved. Many of the passengers were smoking outside. The clock ticked. 10:30, 11:30. I heard a guy talking on his cell phone (there’s service on the top of a mountain in Vietnam?). He was telling someone in Nha Trang that we were supposed to arrive at 6AM but that he would be late. I did the math. If we were supposed to arrive at 6AM and now it’s noon and we’re still not moving but we have another 90 kilometers to go, this probably means we were stopped on the side of the road for 8 hours. We arrived in Nha Trang after 2PM. Remarkably, the driver still pulled over at a rest stop for almost an hour before we arrived. At that point we had 80 kilometers to go. Wouldn’t you think he’d just power up and get to Nha Trang—why stop an hour before the destination?

Doesn’t matter. We made it. Late and tired, but safe. I shudder to think how bad that accident must have been to have halted hundreds of vehicles going in both directions over the mountain—and to have likely infected my dreams. Somebody went out with a flourish.

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