Ride #1 Continues | Huong Ho Saves Us Again
The morning after our first successful hitchhike, our new friend Huong Ho took us to coffee at the same coffee spot from the night before. It was crowded and I was the only woman. Men surrounding several tables congregated around their coffees watching a beauty pageant on the television set. They picked their noses and they picked their teeth as they picked each others brains, deep in conversation. Huong Ho introduced Tim and I to some friends he knew. After 15 minutes of deep discussion between him and his friends he turned to me and through a translator explained that he decided to take us halfway to our destination.
We were ecstatic.
Huong Ho bought us some banh mi’s for the road and we drove up through the mountains. He drove us about 75 km which meant we still had about another 75 km. When we reached the city Huong still tried to help us. He got out of the car and started asking cars around us which direction they were going, even yelling at cars that passed us. We told him to not worry about it, thanked him, hugged him, and sent him on his way. Later, after we had finally reached our destination, he messaged us to ensure our safety. He was a kind and caring man and one that we will never forget. He truly treated us like we were one of his own.
From there we only had a few more rides before we reached our final destination but we learned a lot during those few rides.
Ride #2 The Cheapest 2.5 Hr Bus Ride
We were alone again. I tried asking a random shuttle bus at a gas station but they were going the opposite direction. A lady at the food shop behind us had been watching us prepare ourselves for the next hitchhike and came up to us, “Excuse me, I help you get a bus.” Knowing the way the tourists prices were for buses we explained that we didn’t have money for that. “It only 30,000 VND per person” That’s $1.32 to drive another 75 km. Fine, we’ll take it. The lady started waving buses down, negotiating prices and waving away the scammers for us as we sat in her chairs in her little shop. Finally, the bus that she was looking for came along. She spoke to the drivers and we both hopped on.
The bus was packed. Standing room only and we were the only foreigners. Tim stood tall above every head there. As we got closer to the city, more people departed from the bus. One lady let me share a seat with her. A 1 year old baby was the source of entertainment for myself and others surrounding her.
Ride #3 A Bad Decision
After our first city, we were exhausted and sick so we hopped on the first to offer us a ride: a shuttle bus. It only cost us 75,000 VND each, more than double our last ride. We knew we shouldn’t give in to paying for a ride but we weren’t in the best of health to deny a ride quite yet. The edge of the city was still too far for us to walk so to get a ride out of the main city area and into the next city was good enough for us. Unfortunately, when I put my backpack in the back of the bus a small amount of money sitting in the front zip pocket was forgotten but the shuttle driver discovered it while I had passed out during the ride. He even took my coin purse containing it. That bastard. It was a rookie move on my part. Hint: don’t accept rides from shuttle bus drivers.
Ride #4 The Girl Who Spoke English
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the shuttle bus driver to get us to drop us off at the edge of the city. He didn’t quite understand what that meant. We decided to eat at the restaurant that they dropped us off at. There, we made a new sign thanks to the staff. I asked the old man that worked there for some cardboard. He brought it out with a marker. When he saw me starting to write on the cardboard he brought me out a longer piece, took the pen from me, wrote our next city in Vietnamese and brought out some wire so I could attach the sign to my bag. As we left the restaurant he gave us two free cokes for the road.
As we were in the middle of the city, we had quite a long walk before anyone would even pay attention to us, but we were stopped several times. One man wanted to help us but he only had his motorbike. Another family wanted to help us get on a bus for 200,000 VND. No thank you. Their son wanted to drive us to the edge of the city but he tried to convince us it was too dangerous. Then the father decided it was too dangerous for him to drive us. We thanked them all and continued on our way.
I stopped for a small break. Tim waved the sign around for a bit but he put it down as it seemed useless in the middle of the city. We had a long way to walk. A car creeped up and parked behind the car beside us. The windows were rolled down and suddenly a little girl popped her head out and in English said, “Do you need a ride?” They were going to our furthest destination, a hitchhiker’s dream. The father– the driver– hopped out of the car, helped us with our bags and threw us in the back seat of the car with their two children.
The girl, Vy, was 14 years old and her brother, Dai, was 12 years old. They were the only ones that spoke English and they spoke English well. It was a 2.5 hour ride. We talked for some time helping Vy and Dai (who was a bit more shy) practice their English. I could tell the dad was proud that his 14 year old daughter could hold a full conversation with an English speaker. The parents sat up front and only spoke occasionally as their daughter translated. They gave us some che, a Vietnamese dessert, which was an excellent, filling treat in the heat. They drove us as close as they could to the center of the city.
Maybe we were lucky but we had come across some very kind and caring people and didn’t have to bother with too much hassle. Even though we had traveled a short distance, what really mattered was that we got to observe the local life, talk to local people, and experience the kindness from people of a misunderstood country.