Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Bus Ride

Painted on the side of the bus were the words Express Sleeper Bus. Two-thirds of this advertisement were false. Express it was not, sleeping was for a select few and yes it was a bus. Our trip from Hoi An to Nha Trang was supposed to take 12 hours, departing at 6pm and arriving in the seaside town at 6am.

As the bus pulled out of Hoi An something was different we thought. Maybe it was the tiny seat/beds that were not made with giants like us in mind. Or maybe it was the fact that no one checked our tickets. It was also strange that there was no toilet on board and unfortunately we did not realize this until two bottles of water and two cans of soda were consumed. Just as the empty water bottle started looking like a port-a-potty the luck of the Irish kicked in and we stopped for a break. Sprinting to the the toilet was an easy task, but when I opened the door I was greeted by 10 chickens roosting happily on the floor and on the sink. Yep, they kept chickens in the restroom, needless to say I passed on the chicken fried rice they were serving at the restaurant. Thankfully there was another toilet not being used by any other barnyard animals.

The bus quickly grew quiet as most people settled in for the night. Struggling to find a comfortable position on seats that measured about 18 inches wide and 5 feet long was an ugly display of athleticism on our part. Of course the Vietnamese guy in front of us was snoring almost immediately and jealous rage set in around 11pm as he never woke once to the many bumps and frequent stops the express bus seemed to be making. We have grown used to buses stopping to pick up and drop off locals who only ride for a few miles and it didn't really seem odd to me when we stopped again at about 1:15am. It got interesting at about 1:20am when I realized we were not moving again and in fact the bus was not even running. I looked out the window to see a sign the simply read garage, uh oh. The driver and his assistant were outside the bus looking at the front left tire and after a few minutes a very tired looking gentlemen emerged from the house connected to the garage. He brought with him a jack and torque wrench, unless you drive in NASCAR this is not a good sign.

As the bus was jacked up and the wheel removed most of the people got off to either smoke or just get some fresh air. I, along with most of the other men on the bus gathered around the mechanic as he removed the tire and inspected under the bus. Having no expertise in the area of bus repair there was little I could do to help, so I did the next best thing and did play by play with the English guy next to me. Saying things like, “that is a torque wrench, those are lug-nuts and the hubcap looks ok” was about the extent. When the Englishmen heard me say “hubcap” he laughed and said we call that a “tire shield in England”. Then and there I thanked our forefathers for winning back 1776 because I will be damned if I ever called a hubcap a “tire shield”.

Anyway, it seemed that removing the wheel and looking under the bus solved the issue that brought us to a halt because around 1:45am the bus was back on the road. At 1:47am the bus was stopped outside another garage and in an almost exact replay the driver and his assistant were back out to the wheel and a even more tired looking guy was emerging from his house. This time he woke up his wife to help him carry out the jack and the torque wrench. As the men gathered to watch the repairs and continue novice speculation the guy next to me was Vietnamese and he started to talk about the problem, I think. His gestures did not make it any clearer to me about what had happened, but I nodded in agreement nonetheless. I even offered up my idea that maybe the flux capacitor was broken and he nodded in agreement. Broken vehicles can bring just about anyone together and I think if Obama and Kim Jung Il , Iran's Ahmadinejad and maybe Castro all took a road trip the world could get better much quicker.

Thankfully, mechanic number two had the solution and we got on the road a little after 2:15am. Arriving in Nha Trang only an hour late was fine by us because it meant we could get off the Express Sleeper Bus. St. Patricks Day was celebrated with little fanfare here, but we enjoyed a few beers on the beach to honor the day. We are going to give SCUBA diving a try tomorrow, hopefully the green beer from tonight will not affect the dive tomorrow!

No comments:

Post a Comment