Riding the death wagon to Dalat, Vietnam


We had just spent the best part of 3 days on the sauce. Nha Trang is the party capital of Vietnam and we now understood why. I was by far feeling human. Our next venture was a 4 hour bus journey to Dalat, located in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam. This was, as we were told, going to be quite the contrast to the last several pit stops of the Vietnamese coastline we had just had the pleasure to encounter.

Now one might have thought to go easy on their night before a 4 hour bus journey into the foggy abyss, but we were 'living every moment' and hadn't quite thought that through.

As myself and my 4 companions boarded our bus, we raced to the back to get the 5 seater row. It was quite possibly the most musty wheeled enclosure I had ever travelled on. The smell of sweat and a gone off noodle was lingering and we hadn't even left the station – our stomachs were less than grateful. To top off the worry, there were carefully placed bins/sick buckets aligning the isle before us. Clearly, not a good sign.

As we took off, we were all giddy for our journey ahead – absolutely misinterpreting the situation we found our selves in. We were the only non-Vietnamese folk on the little wagon and so were humouring no one but ourselves. Our humour however, was very short lived. We realised we had plonked ourselves right on top of the boiling fog horn engine, which was warming our already warm seats and the air around us. We realised that we would have actually had more space sitting on the 2 seaters as we kept touching off each other, and I as a traveller who can’t hack the heat at best of times, have a ‘no skin on skin’ rule.

We had ascended up the mountain about 300m when we realised why there was the need to have so many buckets accompanying our journey. Niamh started to feel very peaky as we spiralled around the ever climbing hill. The hilarity turned to nervous laughter as we all tried to push away the thought of hurling last nights vodka over a poor little Vietnamese man. Many a gag was being made about poor Niamh’s fatal condition (her hangover), until Catherine decided that she in fact was far worse.

She climbs over us in a panic with her hand over her mouth, her limbs moving like spaghetti as she’s flung side to side on the moving bus. In her desperate attempt to reach the front before we had a liquid-carrot-through-a-sieve scenario, she hit a man in the head whilst trying to catch her balance. As she propelled herself forward like a gazelle and pleaded with the driver to let her out, he merely handed her a bucket. Now if that was just going to be the end result she could have saved herself the vomit on her hand and a man the concussion.

After 4 hours of tumbling around, we eventually reach the vertigo-induced altitude of 2000m. All 4 of us practically crawled off the bus, green as the forest around us. We were blessed with fresh air at a coolly 10 degrees and surrounded by another bustling Vietnamese city planted in the hills.


L Rankin

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