So, the last post I wrote was about what no to eat at the Dong Ba Market in Huế , Vietnam. While I was busy tapping the keys, I wasn’t paying attention to the weather. That is, until the internet went out, moments after I uploaded the post. I noticed that the lights went out, too. I romped down the marble stairs of the French style homestay to find out what was going on. Instead of seeing the gardens outside of the lobby, I saw a lake.
Non-stop rain left the city of Huế underwater, and several parts of town, powerless. We were stranded, just like on that show I never understood, LOST. Guests could not leave. Flights, trains and holidays were postponed. Planned holidays were being rewritten by Mother Nature and I didn’t approve of her script.
But at times like these, it’s important to go with the flow.
The hotel manager helped guests change train and airplane tickets on her flip phone, as many of us did not have mobile data. Neighbors played cards and sang.
Then, she made a memorable candlelight dinner for her stranded guests. Some kind of Spam-fish cake, spinach soup, rice, and fresh spring rolls.
The next morning, I was surprised to discover that the flood had subsided. I have no idea where all of the water went. The hotel manager waded with me in the murky water to a higher street, where she ordered me a cab to bring me to the train station. The water was still about shin deep, and lurking with every kind of thing you wish it wasn’t. There were a few fish swimming around. I didn’t want to think about rats.
The train station was full of frustrated travelers, all fending for a few tickets and all in need of a bath. Many trains had been cancelled; the airport was also a hot mess. That’s when a cab driver approached me, his skin leather, his hair wiry, and said, “I bring you to a bus station that you can get ticket.”
My gut is telling me this isn’t a good idea.
I’m feeling a bit nauseous, and it’s not just because of the scum on the floodwaters on my legs. The cab driver buzzes by the main bus station and drives me out of town. Way out of town. I’m thinking he was going to harvest my kidneys for a few extra bucks.
Instead, he dropped me off here.
It wasn’t the bus station you’d find in Lonely Planet, but a half an hour past the middle of nowhere, where I waited with a chicken. There were two hammocks, a large screen TV blasting Vietnamese videos, and an old school outhouse out back. The proprietor offered me a coffee; her two children wanted to practice their English. And while they were telling me their names were Nine Years Old and Nice to Meet You, a glitzy Vietnamese bus slowed down on the highway one that wanted to bypass the Huế mayhem. I began my fourteen-hour odyssey to Hanoi.
Buses in Vietnam and Thailand can be more comfie than a train. Passengers get a bedlike seat, with curtains, a blanket and privacy. No shoes are allowed; they must be stored in a plastic bag.
The bus ride from Huế to Hanoi allowed me to take in the beautiful country, along with experience Vietnamese Bust Stop food. There is no menu. The cook plops the slop of the day on your plate, scooping it from plastic buckets. My 40,000 Dong meal ($1.50) consisted of rice, greens, an egg, shrimp and pork. But it didn’t kill me.
I ended up in Hanoi at 3:30 am, where again, I wasn’t dropped off at a bus terminal, but at the side of a highway. Now if this were America and someone dropped me off at the highway at 3:30 am, I’d be on the side of a milk carton in the morning. There were a few taxis and motorbikes were waiting for the three us who got off the bus, the driver barely stopping. I took a motorbike to my hotel and lived to write about it. And yes, once I got there? I took a good shower.