Traveling to Hoi An, Vietnam.
When traveling there’s always going to be what ifs. What if I had gone to Italy instead of Spain? What if I had started in Asia instead of Europe? What if I had stayed? What if I had never left?
You’re constantly making choices and while, really, there is never a wrong choice there may have been a better or worse choice. But you never really know.
I had already booked a ticket to Hoi An. A night bus. But my new friends were doing a “12 bars of Christmas” tour and I wanted to stay and get drunk with them. I almost cancelled my ticket, forfeiting my $12, staying another night. But the practical me said “No.” “No, you’re not on this trip just to party.” “No, you shouldn’t waste anymore time in a town with nothing else to do.” “No, the boy seems very much indifferent to you now, the next day, you don’t have to stick around.”
And so, I boarded my bus. A cramped sleeper with sheets printed with the word “Basepall” along with cartoon pictures of Mickey Mouse playing golf.
Despite the weird and too short and too inclined shape of the seats I managed to fall asleep rather quickly. I’m not someone who has trouble sleeping on buses, in fact, I have a hard time staying awake on buses.
But I woke up maybe an hour later and found that we were just standing in traffic. For about three hours we didn’t move. The driver turned off the bus and we sat there with no air.
Me and the other backpackers who had all been placed in top-row seats at the back of the bus started chatting, complaining. After a bit of time the bus driver came back and scolded us for talking when others were trying to sleep. “There’s children,” he said, pointing at a baby who was fast asleep in spite of our noise. It wasn’t even midnight at that point and we were all pretty awake, but being silenced, with nothing else to do, we went to bed.
About that time I was cursing at myself for not staying behind in Nha Trang. I could have been drunk and eating dinner and making out with some boy. Instead I was trapped and felt like I’d never get to the end of the road.
Eventually the bus started moving. And we all woke up early in the morning to the sounds of the driver constantly laying on the horn directing motorbikes out of his way.
We arrived in Hoi An about five hours after we should have and in the entire fifteen hour trip we did not stop once for a bathroom or for food. There was a bathroom on the bus but it smelled so putrid that every time someone would open the door the scent alone would wake us up and so none of us dared to go and use it.
It was miserable, the worst bus I’d ever taken, one that made me never want to board one again. And it was the reason we all checked in to the moldy cheap hotel that picked us up because we were too exhausted to want to think of another option. And it was the reason we all went immediately to a restaurant and ordered what seemed like everything on the menu, still complaining about the horrid trip all through the meal.
The reason we had stopped for three hours was because 5 km in front of us another bus collided with a truck, engulfing in flames, killing 13.
I didn’t know this until two days later.
And it’s things like that that make you think “what if.” What if I had stayed behind? What if our bus left just that much earlier? What if it was my bus?
And it makes you never want to complain again.
My first day in Hoi An, in pictures…