Had to Share: My Sleeper Bus Adventure!

My pick up location!

I didn’t want to go back to Hanoi and then on to Sapa. So, I Googled the best way to get there, non stop, from Halong Bay. I found a sleeper bus, via Bookaway.com, for less than $24.00. The pickup location was on the other side of the Bãi Cháy Bridge, a cable-bridge, on Highway 18. The drive there took around fifteen minutes. The guy driving the cab was as shocked as I was, when we arrived. My pick up destination wasn’t a bus terminal. It was simply a shipping and receiving shop. While I was waiting, large boxes were dropped off and left on the sidewalk. When the bus arrived, my luggage went into one outside bin (tossed all the way to the back) and the large boxes into another.

Only one baggage area was needed for luggage!

I got on the bus and was told to sit down and remove my shoes. Then, I was handed a blue plastic bag. I put my sneakers inside and showed the assistant my paperwork. I had reserved seat A11, directly behind the driver. Someone was already sleeping there. The gentleman pointed to C11, a lower bed. I took a sit. Well, it’s a sleeper bus, so there’s no way to sit. I got comfortable and then noticed a smell. I gathered my things and relocated myself near the only other foreigners. They were a young couple from Germany. I took a top bunk and stayed there, until the first rest stop. The narrow foot ladder and the metal bar across the front of the bed, made it impossible for me to get up and down. I moved to a lower one, in the back.

My first of many seats.

As soon as I moved the blanket, on my new seat, little bugs began flying around. I’m sure they were gnats, from all the packed meals, on the bus, along with the general lack of cleaning. This was a local’s bus, after all. It was nothing like the limousine style transport that caters to foreigners. Even the local limo bus that I took from Hanoi to Halong was much cleaner. That being said, that bus dropped me at the side of a road, across the street from my hotel, and I had to lug my bags up the long driveway by myself. There was nothing limousine fancy about it. Luckily, this trip, I had packed my bug spray in my carry on bag. I went to town! I also used my jacket as a pillow, to avoid putting my head on the seat.

One of our rest stops

We had several official rest stops. I didn’t bother with the first one. At the second, we were three hours in and it was time to use the restroom. I walked to the back of the restaurant and saw the older auntie there selling rolled up sheets of toilet paper. I had no idea about what to pay. So, I paid 20,000.00 Vietnamese dong (around 85 cents) and hoped that her smile meant she was “going to pocket that “crazy American’s tp” money for herself. She gave me a big wave, as I was leaving. Back in the cafe area, I didn’t make a food or drink purchase, having no idea when the next rest stop might happen. I simply enjoyed my time off the bus.

Pick up and delivery!

The seven hour trip took over nine. People kept getting on and off the bus, all along the route. I quickly realized that I was not on a direct bus to Sapa. Added to that, the bus had to stop and deliver all those boxes and packages. The driver would often just pull over to the side of the road. Some guy would be there, with a cart or motorcycle (for the heavier items). We made one stop at a small restaurant. A woman was seated out front. She had sheets of paper and a large wad of money. She checked off our driver and his two assistants. Money exchanged hands and then we began the final push to Sapa.

An Expedia VIP upgrade!

Near the end, traffic was stalled and we had to inch our way uphill. Finally, the road leveled out. A little while later, we pulled into the bus terminal. A taxi driver and a woman offering trekking tours met me at the door of the bus. I said yes to the taxi and no to the trekking. The taxi driver walked to his car, leaving me to gather and carry my bags. I walked from the covered terminal, into light rain, and then crossed the road to his waiting vehicle. Well, this is Women’s History Month. I guess he was supporting my right to carry my own luggage. Fair enough! My hotel was on the far edge of town. It was nice seeing some of the city, as the cab worked its way there, turning up one steep hill after another. Once at the hotel, the taxi driver pulled out his phone. He wanted me to scan his WhatsApp code, for any additional transportation needs that I might have in Sapa.

If it were me, I would have played that entire luggage carrying deal differently, back at the bus terminal. Live and learn, player! Happy Women’s History Month! XOXO — GGT!

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