On Wednesday we woke up and checked out of our guest house. Sierra is happy to be leaving and I’m a little sad. I enjoyed the island lifestyle and I was growing attached to this small community of travelers. Sierra enjoys larger islands where you are less likely to come across the same people constantly.
We had our final $1 fruit smoothies and boarded the ferry back to the mainland. Once we arrived we rushed onto a truck driven Tuk Tuk to the Vietnam Consulate before they closed for lunch to pick up our passports. We then returned to the beach to purchase our minivan tickets to Ho Chi Minh City. We are given 2 options. Leave at 1:00pm and arrive at 10pm or leave at 7:00pm and arrive at 10:00am. After reading a horror story online about the overnight bus I opted for the 1:00pm van. We sat by the water enjoying a drink while we waited for the van to arrive. It was breezy and wonderful.
We then load up into the van. There are 6 of us but the other 4 people are getting off at Kompot which is only 2 hours away. An hour into the journey we stop in the middle of the road and our driver swaps out. The new driver is surprised to hear we are going to Ho Chi Minh and says something about putting us on a bus. Everyone in the van nervously laughs for us hoping this isn’t true. We then drop everyone off in Kompot and continue on. We then make a bathroom stop. As Sierra and I go to the bathroom a guy jumps into the van a starts to leave! We chase him down. Apparently we are switching vans and he didn’t realize our bags were inside! So we grab our bags and put them in the new van. Mind you no one speaks English. We then drive through the most beautiful part of the country. Passing the coast and rice fields along the way.
At the border the driver asks for our passports and goes into a building. He returns and we drive about 100 feet. We get out and our handed our bags. I’m super confused about what is going on. I was told we would just drive through the border. We walk into the border crossing building and are sent to the Doctor who takes our temperature and makes us fill out a form. He then demands $2 payment. We then go to the window where we get our passports stamped. The driver pays this man some money. He then hands us off to some Vietnamese guy and waves goodbye. The Vietnamese guy then explains we are getting into a taxi that is taking us to the bus station for a bus that leaves in 2 hours and will arrive at 4 am in Ho Chi Minh. I’m upset! He’s then upset that I’m upset. It’s horrible. He then gets out of the taxi about 5 miles before the bus stop and I’m actually asking him not to as he’s the only person we’ve come across who speaks enough English to converse with. He offers me his phone number which I regretfully refused as my Cambodia SIM card doesn’t work in Vietnam. The taxi driver then drops us off at the bus station and pays for our bus tickets. We have a two hour wait.
I have about $10 USD and around $2 in Cambodian money. I have some hidden $100 bills but I’m not about to pull one out at a random Vietnamese bus station in the middle of nowhere. Sierra and I walk over to the little food stand and there is young girl adding money to her phone. So I ask if they sell SIM cards. She brings over some woman who pulls one out of her pocket and sells it to me. For like $7! I have no clue what the exchange rate is until I installed the SIM card and had Internet to look it up. So for $3 Sierra got a plate of rice and a chicken leg. Then for my left over Cambodian money they sold us a large bottle of water. We were like deer caught in the headlights here. No ATMs, no exchange booths and no one who speaks any English. Then 3 foreigners in the same boat as us walk up. They also have no Cambodian money but they have USD that they pay for their soup with and get change in Dong. So it’s around 22,000 to 1USD but everyone just gives you 20,000 to 1.
At 7:30pm we load into the sleeper bus. They put us all in the back. The three of them on top and the two of us on the bottom. It was a row of 5 reclining seats and thankfully we had the entire row. If there weren’t armrests separating them it would have been awesome. The ride is crazy bumpy and at some points I thought we were jumping over ditches. We then come to a stop. Myself and the girl from Seattle, Candice have to use the restroom. So I tell Sierra make sure they don’t leave us. We go to get off and our told its 2000 dong to use the bathroom. That’s like 10 cents and we don’t have it! So after explaining this some kind lady on the bus offers to pay for us. I go first then walk out and the bus is gone. I looked down the road and the driver is yelling at me to get on the bus they are leaving! I yell for Candice and she comes running out with her pants still unbuttoned grabs her shoes and we are running onto the bus that is getting on a ferry to cross the Mekong River. So much for Sierra ensuring the bus didn’t leave us. We then fall back asleep only to wake up to the bus being washed. I again get up to use the bathroom and I’m locked in. With the people locked out just looking at me like I’m a fish in a tank. Finally the Israeli guy gets the bus driver to let me out but no one in. I use the bathroom but now I am also locked out until they are ready to leave. Finally we arrive in Ho Chi Minh and agree to share a taxicab and split the cost 5 ways. Apparently the Taxi driver doesn’t take USD and I end up exchanging Candice’s $10 with a police officer. We pay the driver and I owe her $4. We then walk around trying to find a guesthouse for cheap. Everyone is full. We finally find one and I go up the 5 flights of stairs to look at it. Us three girls share a room for $17 and the 2 guys pay $6 each for a bed in a dorm. We sleep until noon, shower, eat breakfast then Sierra and I move to a place down the road for $18 a night but we have an in room safe, computer, fridge and a much better shower.