March 17, 2006

Getting half of the way there

My plan was to get the 6am bus to Qui Nhon and transfer to another bus at 12 to get over to Kon Tum by 5. It didn't work. I blame it on the rain.

All hues of yellow and spring green fields streaked brightly through the wet windows. Pleased, I thought it worked out that it rained on a day I was only in transit. Displeased, it slowed us down by 2 hours and the driver broke his promise to drop me at the bus station. "Take moto. 6km. Over there." The store owner I was disposed infront of said "You walk. 50m. Over there." So I walk over there to find a bus sign but no buses. A girl shook her head and offered me a ride but we head in the opposite direction. I ask her why we go this way but my question fades into the loud crinkle of her plastic raincoat and the heavening rain ticking on her helmet. She stops at a different bus sign and talks to the man sitting under it. After some discussion they decide for me to get on his moto, brushing off "How much?" because nobody speaks English.

We continue in the wrong direction, past the same rice paddies I saw half an hour earlier. Probably 6km but not the right way! A family stands, brother, girl holding baby, man, woman, lined up outside a wooden house. 50,000 dong for the moto, an argument that won not in my favour. "Where is the bus station?" Everybody laughs. I stand in the downpour, my own blue plastic raincoat bought too late because I was already wet. The woman keeps pulling out a small, red plastic stool. Why would I want to sit here? They all talk to me in rapid Vietnamese, pointing and laughing along the way. I feel ripped off and abandoned on some dirt road with these amused strangers. I ask for a toilet and they point down a narrow lane between 2 buildings. I stumble over broken bricks and strewn garbage to find a corner with a view of some dreary river. The cool rain falls in huge droplets down my back and face, mixing with the warm water from my eyes.

I felt horrible and everyone seems to be laughing at me. But seems is what it was and their way of helping. I began to see minivans pass by... Hanoi, Saigon, Kon Tum. The young student who writes in his book said 3 hours but maybe he meant 3 minutes. The driver said that way but maybe he meant this way. I do not know, I will not know! I feel ridiculous not able to speak their language. It could have been a funny adventure. But these are the days I don't want to be the only single traveller on the bus, nevermind the only traveller to go to Kon Tum. My travel instincts were wrong and I expect them to be better by now. So now stuck in Qui Nhon I try to decide if it's worth going to this off-the-beaten-track town. P

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