the effing futa bus.

when leaving the pine tree covered mountain town of dalat, vietnam we had three choices of transportation to our next destination:

a. 1.5 hour flight (4.4 million vietnamese dong)
b. 15-hour overnight local train (more expensive than bus; deemed “unsafe” by many)
c. 16-hour locals overnight bus ride (700,000 vietnamese dong)

unlike the $3 difference that had us doing an unnecessary jungle trek, this was 4.4 million dong ($210USD) vs. 700,000 dong ($33USD). that’s a big difference in dong, which made the decision easier (but still dreaded by me). (and yes, the vietnamese money is called dong).

having just rode the Futa sleeper bus for the 7-hour journey from ho chi minh city to dalat, danny thought it would be fine. “we’ll load the bus, read a book, go to sleep and wake up at our destination,” he claimed. i didn’t feel the same way…. “you realize we could like fly to africa and back in 16-hours, right? that’s a long damn time on a bus, dan.”

d: babe, it’ll be fine.
t: you’re delusional, but whatever.

at 3:30pm we were picked up at our guest house by the shuttle and within minutes i was sitting on danny’s lap because the mini van was overflowing with screaming vietnamese passengers,  their luggage and produce.IMG_4282   
after that lovely ride, we arrived at the bus station and as the rain poured down, the lone westerners (us) watched as our bags were thrown into the wet storage and we boarded our vessel.

can you find me? clue: i’m the only person without black hair in the photo.

have you ever been in an argument with someone who doesn’t speak your language? it’s not productive. the number system on the bus was a little funky, so right after getting settled into my seat i was getting poked by a woman screaming at me in vietnamese and pointing that i was in her seat (i wasn’t) and when danny told me to just relax, i snapped back, “she started it!” then we both laughed.

already off to a sour start and with a 16-hour countdown clock in my head, we started our journey.

our seats weren’t next to each other, but we were close enough to communicate. within the first hour, danny concluded that “these pods are smaller than the other Futa ones we had.” no, dear. they’re the exact same short pods made for 5′ 4″ asians which is why everyone around us is stretched out and looks like they’re flying first class and we’re scrunched with our knees poking out everywhere. they are the same, uncomfortable pods as before.

as i finally started to accept my fate and get settled into my middle seat, the bus attendant came over to MY pod, dropped the TV screen immediately in front of me then grabbed my chair’s lever to recline my seat to sleeper position while pointing at the TV motioning that i had to lay flat “so other people can see the TV.”  i close-mouth smiled until he walked off and then put my seat up right again. yeah, not happening.

and just when i thought it couldn’t get worse… i realized the torture ride had just begun.

i won’t give you a play-by-play of the bus ride from hell, but here are some highlights:

:: the minute the bus attendant was back up front, he turned the TV speakers (immediately to my right & left) to BLAST vietnamese videos – pop music, soap operas & musical dramas. you may think i’m exaggerating, so ask D. the volumne was SO LOUD you couldn’t hear yourself think. and to make it even worse, the speaker on my left was busted so it was loud crackling through the shrieking. i’m not sure if you’re intimately familiar with the vietnamese language, but it’s um, well, pretty irritating at shrill levels. lots of screaming that comes from use of the throat and nose. so. much. screaming.

:: about 2-hours in, we blew out a tire which meant we had to crawl to the next rest stop. my immediate thought was that we were now adding even more time to our ride.
{busted bus on the side of the road}

:: there was NOT a restroom on the bus.

:: the max volume music never. ever. stopped. all. night. long. i don’t think you’re understanding the volume of this music – all the way up. and when you’re trying to sleep? WTF? i slammed a couple Benadryl, my headphones and kindle, but it was all too much. trying to drown out vietnamese music by blasting your “relaxing” Andrew Bird and trying to sleep with the headphones and mix of music…. around midnight i finally started to cry. like giant tears. i was so miserable and so uncomfortable. i kept thinking about how loud, repeating music is used as a form of torture during hazing and interrogation and i totally understood why you’d break. i felt like i was a prisoner of the Futa and would have confessed to murdering a litter of puppies just to get the music turned off.

:: during my cry, i reached across to relaxed danny and he just gave me the, “what the hell do you want me to do about it look” and really – misery just loves company and he was looking way to content at the moment so i needed to make sure he was wide awake and miserable, too. he was.

:: we stopped TWICE for a potty break that was more or less a driver smoke break. by potty break, i mean we pulled over on the side of the road in the pouring rain and everyone scattered like cockroaches to find a place to squat and pee. doing this at 3:45 AM is SUPER fun!

:: the 3:45 AM pull over actually ended up being the best stop of them all. in my “i don’t care if i get publicly caned for doing this” state of mind, when the driver was smoking, i snuck up to the front of the bus and turned the music volume almost all the way down!!!! it wasn’t until 6 AM the driver noticed and it was blaring again, but from 3:45 – 6AM, we had peace. i’m kind of shocked that people weren’t giving me high-fives and treating me like a hero, but whateves.

:: we had a very unhappy baby on the ride (poor kid, poor mom, poor us).

{note d’s knees sticking up and being crushed since we couldn’t actually stretch out in our pod}

:: while we sat around for an hour for the flat to be fixed, i refused to sit. so i paced around the rest stop entire time – doing what felt like hundreds of laps. each time i’d pass the vietnamese lady who claimed i stole her seat, she’d give me with the stink eye. danny said i looked like a legit crazy person pacing around in the middle of the night.

:: when we finally arrived at our destination at 8AM, we realized we had to take the local bus to actually get to the town we wanted. so after all that, we boarded another bus for an hour-long ride with a driver who was OBSESSED with honking the world’s loudest & most annoying horn.

so. tired. need. advil. may. die.
IMG_4295{smiling? through the pain on the local bus ride}

it was a loooooong day and i’ll never do a bus ride longer than 8 hours ever again. i did a 13-hour bus ride in spain and swore it’d be my last, but this is it. mark my words.

we arrived to our hotel in hoi an at 10:30 AM and of course our room wasn’t ready, but at least there was food and a pool to swim in. and the minute we got into our lovely room, danny drew me a hot bubble bath where i stayed with some quiet music and a book for a good hour.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

so in summary, the 390 mile journey (distance from phoenix –> san diego)
took us a total travel time of 19 HOURS.
oh the joys of longterm budget travel decisions! 

needless to say, we flew to our next destination.


  • Reply April 21, 2014

    Erica Newton

    I’m dying!!! This bus ride! I can totally picture you the entire time. I’m so impressed (and not even a little surprised) with your volume control, nice work!! I’m still laughing….

  • Reply December 31, 2014


    Found this quite by accident. Love it. It is the embodiment of the stereotypical non-air travel experience in Vietnam.

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