Another day, another questionable driving experience. We left Cat Ba to head back to Hanoi before moving down the coast. The bus to the ferry was relatively pain free with two exceptions: 1. The 'nam man who crammed in next to/on top of me and proceeded to (attempt to) top up his phone DIRECTLY IN MY EAR. Vietnamese numbers sound absolutely ridiculous and he made many, many attempts. It started off being funny... And 2. About 3 minutes before we reached the boat there was a very loud bang and one of our tyres had burst (there were two on each corner so we made it to the port just about).
The boat was also rammed and it started to rain very hard but other than that nothing to report.
Then a mini bus greeted us at the other side to take us to our bigger transport bus. If you've ever wondered how many people you can fit in a 23 seater mini bus, in 'nam, man, it's 41 (plus luggage). A very snug journey indeed. The length between seats was the exact length of my femur so I was very firmly wedged. Good news is that the driver adapted his driving to the fully loaded vehicle. We didn't come to a shuddering stop in the middle of a junction for a full 3 minutes, or bunny hop onto, then promptly stall on a dual carriage way or feel unsafe at anytime. The '15 minute' (at least half an hour) journey to our main bus was quite the scenario but I'm happy to report the onward journey was issue free (and I'm even starting to block out the constant beeping of horns).
We avoided the swarming taxi men (again, these scammers have rigged meters so you have to go to one of the side streets to hail one) And made our way to the train office to pick up our pre booked tickets where we were politely told to wait 5 minutes. 45 minutes later the man with our tickets finally arrived - we had been entertained in the interim by the lady showing us beach photos of where we had just come from. I can confirm that we saw nothing that looked anything like the photos in her book.
We trudged the streets to find Joma (as we now have vague bearings of the city just in time to leave) and had a very successful journey. For the last month Bryony has been looking for postcards that aren't of toothless women with fish, a notebook and sunglasses that don't swamp her face. All three were found in the 15minute stroll and as a happy bonus the notebook was bought from the nicest local we've met since being here and was for a deaf charity. We are now settled in a delightful bakery cafe drinking real tea, with real milk (saving any 'there's sugar in my tea-no there's not- oh it's condensed milk' situations) waiting to get on the sleeper train in a couple of hours bound for Dong Hoi. I can only hope it poses less avenues for disaster than wheeled transport but I've come to the conclusion that nothing really goes to plan in 'nam, man.