Right, it's official.... I'm a snob. I've known it for quite some time, but now I'm absolutely sure and I'm ready to face the cold, harsh reality. It all started on Thursday when my wife phoned to tell me that we would be taking a bus with a bed to Nha Trang. It all sounded very promising I thought. Travel overnight and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and energised. It would also work out much cheaper than flying. Win Win situation, right? So where did it all go wrong?
1. Unrealistic expectations
When I heard that the bus would have a bed on it, I was thinking of a dentists chair. A reclining, leather chair which is comfortable and cushioning. However the reality was more of a rigid, hospital bed with a cardboard wafer between my back and steel rods supporting me.
2. It is designed for hobits
Those people who know me well, know that I a fondness, bordering on an obsession, for the Lord of the Rings. Well hobbits are about the only people who would feel comfortable on this particular sleeper bus. Not only are they too short for the average person (please bare in mind I'm only 170cm, about 5 foot 6), it's also too narrow. Whilst I'm certainly broader than the average Vietnamese guy, I wouldn't say I'm particularly wide. These 'beds' are just about wide enough for your body minus your arms. Now where are they supposed to go? Therefore a night of being elbowed in the ribs was in-store....fun!
3. They are poorly designed
Think about your bed at home. Does it lie horizontal? I mean, is it flat so that you don't slide to the end of it? If you answer no to these questions I'd be surprised. So, surely a sleeper bus should have flat beds? Well if you have a bed in the upper tier they are. However, if you're a novice such as me, you will book a bed downstairs. They slope downwards. As the seats are made from some nasty plastic (pretending to be leather) you slide smoothly down the chair putting a fair bit of pressure on your feet. For me, who has an ankle problem at the moment, this wasn't great to say the least.
4. The bus drivers (in VN) are crazy
Picture this, your driving behind to lorries. A bend is approaching. It's night so you can see the glare of oncoming traffic. You're a bus driver, so you have the lives of 40 odd people to consider. Do you try to overtake at this point? No. You stay behind the lorries until you come to a long straight so you can pass safely. Well not here. They just go for it. It didn't fill me full of confidence. Also, they don't give each other much margin. On coming traffic doesn't tend to slow too much, and buses often swerve severely in order to avoid head-ons. (In my experience this is common of bus drivers in Vn not just this journey)
Overall, I didn't have a great experience on the sleeper bus and I sure won't be doing it again. Maybe I'm just a snob and don't appreciate the woes of a budget conscious traveler. Maybe we just got unlucky and picked a bad company. The company (I think) was aimed towards Vietnamese travelers who are generally of a much smaller frame than me and tend to travel in more crowded transportation than I am used to at home. Maybe they provide a good respite for people who don't have enough time to stay too many days in one place. However, I found it a terribly uncomfortable, overcrowded and sleep depriving way of traveling. Give me a bog standard coach any day of the week!
Cheap it certainly is, so that is a plus. But the overriding negatives have left an unpleasant taste in the mouth.