Quan Son

Getting out of dodge

June 17, 2005

After about 4 hours of interrupted sleep we woke up at 3:30 am to catch the first bus out of this sketchy town. There wasn't a single person up at this hour and since there were only a couple street lights in the whole town we both got ready with mild trepidation. As we descended the hotel stairs in darkness both of our hearts were pounding and immediately every dog in the within 20 miles started to bark. We walked down the middle of the street huddling close together so the dogs wouldn't attack and maybe that way we'd look bigger and more intimidating. One guy did come out of his house, looked our way and squatted down to watch us. We walked about 10 minutes before I looked over the my left and saw a rickety bus with someone inside lighting a cigarette. Out of nowhere a girl rode up on her bike and said hello. I asked her if this bus was going to Thanh Hoa and she said yes and it would be 50,000 dong each, about $3 US. We boarded the bus and we tore out of town at 4:00am sharp. Since Craig and I were the only passengers we were both quite nervous as to what was going to happen and if we'd make it to Thanh Hoa intact. Fortunately a way down the road we picked up another couple who flagged down the speeding bus with their flashlight. I'm sure it's just how things work here but it still amazes me how we'll be traveling on a remote road or by boat and somehow the lines of communication work that the drivers know when and where to stop for their passenger pick ups. Once we weren't the only passengers on the bus we both could relax a bit more and once the bus started to fill up I felt much better about the situation. As the sun began to rise the whole valley we were driving in came to life and soon the roads were busy with motorbikes and women wearing conical hats walking their ox. The landscape was a gorgeous mix of bright green rice paddy fields and rock formations covered in the morning fog. It was quite a sight as were we for many of the passengers. I caught more than one sideways glance at our clothes and backpacks. We are finding that many of the men in the area wear lots of camouflage or green army pants and hats. This country has seen so much horror and death that one can't help to think about the profound loss the people here have experienced.
When we arrived in Thanh Hoa we breathed a sigh of relief and quickly bought our bus tickets up to Hanoi. This part of the trip was just as exciting. As we've found in Thailand and Laos the highways here are used for every mode of transportation and commerce available. There were miles and miles of hay and rice along the road being dried in the sun as well as street vendors carting their goods into the nearest town to sell. Passing lanes do not exist rather people pull out, honk incessantly and narrowly miss oncoming cars, motorbikes or other buses. At one point our bus was pulled over and after 30 minutes of talking to the local highway police we were able to go on our way. We have no clue what it was about but the other passengers seemed nervous and some were gathering up their belongings to get off the bus. Good thing we didn't have get off the bus or we might have lost it completely. A couple of hours later we arrived in Hanoi and began our 2 hour walk to find a guesthouse. After 6 hours on buses we welcomed the exercise however we were officially starving at this point so we gave the last of our dong to a lychee vendor and got the largest bag of lychees we could afford and ate them along the way. The tasted like heaven but didn't put a dent into our empty stomachs. Once we found a guesthouse and showered we promptly headed to a restaurant for some yummy sandwiches and fresh fruit. Ah, the ups and downs of extended travel.

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