Flashbacks & Lightning on the Night Bus: Hanoi to Hue

July 28, 2012 in Asia, Travelogue, Vietnam

Every now and then the epic nature of our existence strikes me.

The sheer wonder that we’ve coalesced out of parts of the universe to live and breathe for a time, that we have consciousness, that we can direct our lives in whatsoever manner we wish. To have been born into this particular time, in a free part of the world, with technology at our fingertips that allows us to touch the stars as well as the hearts of loved ones a world away.

There are days that my life is terrible and hard and I’m ungrateful for all of the above. 

Today is not one of them. 

I’ve always loved to travel at night.

When I was a little girl my Dad would drive late into the night, whistling quietly, or telling us stories about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, in his own words. We’d lay in the darkness in our little van bunks that he’d built for us and listen. I loved to sit up on the engine of the 1964 Ford Econoline Van that we called home for a while and stare out into the darkness as the world fell away beneath our wheels. I remember the lights of Corpus Christi, Texas breaking over the horizon late one night as Daddy told us the stories of the wars fought over the boundary line between countries. I remember stopping for blueberry pie at midnight at the truck stop on top of Eagle Mountain in Tennessee… or maybe it’s Georgia… I don’t remember.

The roads in Vietnam are terrible.

Rain is falling in sheets across the world in a way that redefines the word “monsoon” for us. White stripes rip across a purple sky, lighting the darkness with multiple strikes per second, for minutes on end. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a storm like this. Our driver honks the horn incessantly, it is the Vietnamese way, and we’re bouncing down the coast of the South China Sea, between Hanoi and Hue, on a night bus.

If you’ve never been on a night bus, imagine it this way:

Three rows run the length of the bus, in each row are six bunk beds. A mobile bedroom for 36! At the back, the three beds are squished together to make room for the lavatory. No one wants these seats because the worst possible thing on a night bus would be to be sleeping with strangers. For us, these are the choice seats. Tony, Ez and I are lined up across the back, Tony in the middle so his long legs can hang off of the end (the seats are made for Asian men, and there aren’t too many in his height category!) Ez is playing Angry Birds. Tony is reading the second Game of Thrones book. I’m watching the lightning, reliving my childhood and having one of those giddy moments in which I realize that this is one of the nights my own children will remember forever.

We just told the three big kids (scattered among the other passengers) to fasten their seat belts, even while they sleep, and to note how to pop the roof evacuation doors in case we crash. Escape routes are always our first discussion on transportation of any sort, especially in a place with communist infrastructure and upkeep standards as well as a high likelihood of animals, bicycles, mopeds, water buffalo and more in the dark road ahead of us.

We’ve done some uncomfortable things. We’ve done some crazy things. We’ve done some pretty cool things. Perhaps tonight fits all three categories, but no matter how you slice it, it’s an adventure! 


Post Script: Safe in Hue. The bus wasn’t bad. We all slept.