Vietnam: Moc Chau Part I [Day six]

Friday 2nd of December.

I bothered Da so much about finding out how to get from Tam Coc to Moc Chau with one bus. I had so many questions and because Vietnam is such a big country it is almost impossible to know it all.

I even asked some shop keepers on my outings if they knew a direct way to Moc Chau from here without having to go back to Hanoi.

In the end, I didn’t want to indulge in over stretching myself. I accepted that I had to travel back to Hanoi.

So I got ready in the morning with a feeling of melancholy. Having so much fun with Marc and Maddie and all the other people I had met. I wanted to stay but of course I had a journey of my own to make. After missing the time for breakfast [due to oversleeping]. Da kindly asked me if I wanted something to eat. I was surprised and I asked him for a simple omelette and toast.

I went to sit down. Marc came and we were discussing the next step of our trips. I told him that I needed to leave soon. My clothes still needed to be delivered and to my surprise they had been washed and dried! I was very happy to finally have some fresh clothes to wear despite the suffocating heat.

Marc and Maddy were so excited about their trip the day before and told me everything about it.

I knew that check out was going to be in 2 hours. I went to see Da to ask him one last time about going back to Hanoi and he assisted me with it. Da offered me to drop me to the Ninh Binh station which is 10 minutes away from the homestay. Time went by quite quickly.

Da got ready and placed my bag on the front sit of the motorbike waiting for me as I was saying my goodbyes. Marc hugged me and I realised that I lost my ability to give good hugs leaving on my own. Perhaps I will learn again one day.

I was confused as how to put a 70L backpack on tiny scooter? But of course, in Vietnam this is not a problem. I was amazed at their problem solving skills. I jumped on the bike behind Da and we left. Again a feeling of sadness took over as I was absorbing the last portion of the landscape I was seeing.

We left and I asked him where the station was, he said that he didn’t know. I stopped utterly confused. He stopped the motorbike on the junction and we crossed in a very hurried manner. He said to me to wait by him as the traffic were flowing alongside us. He said: “There will be a bus coming soon around 12:20pm (it was 12:18pm) and when I say go, you have to go”. I nodded all shaken. A few seconds after, a bus approached at traffic pace and Da waved to the driver and the bus slowed down but didn’t stop. Da said: “Go”, I quickly hugged Da and I ran towards the moving bus with all my luggage and Non La. A guy jumped out and helped me get on the bus by grabbing my backpack, once safe on the bus I sat down and I showed my receipt that Da previously gave me when I paid for this journey. I had to remove my shoes, it was a sleeper bus. I sat next to the guy and showed him the receipt and said: “Hanoi”, he nodded and told me to at the back to find a bed. I managed to find a bed and rested for a few minutes to recompose myself from this craziness. There were no bus stops on the way, it seemed that I had to be at the right place at the right time if I wanted to get to my destination.

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I prayed and fell asleep a few minutes after for a few minutes. I woke up again and changed my films.

The journey was not that long, the bus took me to Giap Bat. Two hours later and asking myself where Hanoi was, I finally saw the cityscape. I went to the driver and asked him. He signed with his hand 10 minutes. I went back to sit down and got my backpack ready just in case I had to do a crazy jump out.

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We arrived at Giap Bat, straight away, guys from everywhere came to ask what I needed. I didn’t have the time to ask or debate so I made my way to the kiosque. I asked what bus stop it was for Moc Chau. The lady at the kiosque wrote on a piece of paper, the number of the bus and the stop I had to take the bus from. I went to line 13 at the kiosque and realised it was the line 16 for departure for Moc Chau or West Vietnam – I realised that I was at the wrong station altogether. I asked another lady and she wrote on a piece of paper that the bus I had to take was in My Dinh. This is another main station within Hanoi.

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-16-35-42That was one hell of a challenge. The ticket was 7000 VD. The bus to my shock took an hour to go from Giap Bat to My Dinh. I tried to be patient. I was also running very low on cash so I needed an ATM to replenish on money. Not knowing where I was going, I was praying that the place I go to would have an ATM very close to me. I waited until the end of the journey to make my decision on where to go. We arrived at My Dinh – at 15:24. I made my way to the main station. I asked a lady receptionist for the Moc Chau bus and she said 15:30 [bearing in mind that it was 15:26].

I still had to go the ATM and the lady assisted me saying that it was out of the station on the left. I ran out trying to find it and couldn’t find it at all and crossing this busy junction was no joke. I felt stranded. I managed to cross after 15 minutes of struggling knowing that my bus was gone.

I managed to find an ATM which was quite. I was relieved after getting my money because I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to run this distance and back to catch the bus. I accepted the fate.

I ran the second time and somebody came to help me. They said 16:00. Unfortunately the moving bus (local bus) was already on its way out. I couldn’t board it. A guy saw me and asked me for my help, I told him where to go. He showed me the bus and it was him the driver. He took my purchased ticket. I asked him if I could have a receipt as I had no idea if he truly was the driver. He gave me a receipt and asked me to come back in a few minutes. I didn’t leave the premises and only bought a few biscuit for the road. The whole place was immense and so busy and noisy. I asked the driver if I could board the bus whilst waiting. It was now 16:10 and I was informed that the bus would leave at 17:00. I had another 50 minutes of wait to do. I was defeated already. I had been on the bus since 12:00pm.

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The hour went by quite quickly. I took advantage of my time to write my diary.

The bus departed and the hustle bustle never stopped. It got dark quite quickly and we were hitting the motorway in no time. I knew that the trip was going to take five hours but had no idea on where to stop.

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For the whole way I was making dua that I get to arrive in Moc Chau with no problems.

A lady was violently vomiting at the back of the bus during the whole way. The sleeper bus was so packed, people were sleeping on the floor in the aisle making it difficult for people to leave at their respective stop. This was an insight into the South East Asian culture. I was in love.

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The journey was long and I realised how patient I was as this was a serious test but I wasn’t feeling bored at all as I was contemplating life and figuring out my problems and resolving them one by one al hamdullilah. I was also wrong on so many levels on how I was living my life. Capitalism had driven us mad, sucked in a rat race not even worth running for.

I was a stranger in a land.

I stood out so evidently but people paid no mind to me. They looked at me and smiled. One of the guys sat next to me was pulling his cover over himself an to my shock I saw that he had a gun. He noticed that I saw it. I looked away and try to avoid eye contact for the whole way at all cost. When he had to pay for his ticket, he had a stack of money with him. It was just so interesting to see the dynamics between everyone.

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I fell asleep for a few hours, When approaching 21:30, I became a little unsettled as to where and when I should get off. Then all of a sudden after making dua, the neon lights left room for the normal lights and a guy shouted: “Moc Chau”, I grabbed my bag and my Non La and my small green bag (where I had put my shoes in) and jumped out of the bus.

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Initial reaction: Where am I?!!!!!!!

An old taxi man came to me and said: “Where do you need to go?” I replied: “Moc Chau Arena” showing him the plan and the hotel address.

He said to me: “60 000 VD” I accepted as there was no bargaining to be done at 22:20 in the middle of nowhere. He drove me to the place and his English was excellent. It was so dark outside, I could see no lights and the stars were so beautifully visible.

He gave me his card after I paid him should I needed him again.

I entered the place and I wanted to check in. I could sense that they were being weird. I asked straight away “is there a problem?”, the lady laughed nervously and said: “because you came late, we had to give your room away to someone”. I was like….say what?? but I looked at the time and said to myself: “Don’t argue, show respect, it’s too late and they look tired too”.

She then said: “We can give you the dormitory room for free and you don’t have pay for this night”. I got myself a deal. All I needed as a place to sleep and I couldn’t careless where it was. I got given a bed in the dormitory and went to bed straight away after praying. The dormitory was occupied by a Chinese family. 

I fell asleep after almost 12 hours of bus journey. Vietnam I was never ready for this!

 

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Author: Nadeem Karim

| London / Paris Photographer - Mu'min |

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