When our Can Tho guesthouse proprietor Ms. Ha offered to arrange our return tickets to Saigon through the Long Phuong bus company which had (relatively comfortably) delivered us to Can Tho, we gave two thumbs up because we knew what to expect.
But oh…we were wrong…
When we arrived to the bus entrance, an attendant handed each of us a plastic bag and gestured for us to remove our shoes and place them within. It’s customary in Asia for one to remove their shoes before going into someone’s home, but not when entering a space such as a store, restaurant, or bus for that matter. So that was weird. As we ascended the bus’s steps, it suddenly became clear what was going on: Ms Ha had booked us on a sleeper bus.
Three rows of double-decker “beds” lined the body of the bus with suuuper narrow aisles between them. We’re not the widest of people, but with our assemblage of backpacks and tote bags draped about us, Mark barely fit and Robin became stuck a few times as we made our way toward our assigned beds at the back of the bus. The configuration was an easy-chair like seat already in the reclined position, with a covered chute made of molded plastic into which you were to insert your feet and legs. And above this leg-chute was tray and cup holder for snacks and beverages (there’s surely a better way to describe this verbally, but since we’re failing, we’ll include a video illustration at the end of this post). There were no overhead storage spaces for extra luggage since the bus had maxed out its space for stretched-out passengers, and since the bus attendant refused to take any more than our large wheeled luggage for the storage space under the bus, our only option was to shove our bags into the leg chute, then scrunch ourselves up into the upper half of our seat. Fortunately, we discovered that the fully reclined seat backs could be adjusted into a semi-sitting position, as the prospect of riding for 4 hours on our backs with our knees at our chest, facing the ceiling was putting Robin on the verge of a panic attack.
A few hours into our outbound trip we stopped at the same rest area as we’d visited on the way in. A bucket of large sized flip flops was presented outside of the bus and each passenger grabbed a pair before shuffling their way in for bathroom breaks and snacks. Seeing the small children awkwardly maneuver in grown men’s flip flops was something we’re sorry we didn’t capture on film for you. Utterly ridiculous and adorable.
On this rest stop occasion, we gave another sensational miming performance for an order of an iced café sua da and two banh bao buns, this time mixing things up a bit and going for a green versus a purple dessert bao bun (it’s little things like trying different colored foreign foods that keep your spirits up when you’re traveling on a sleeper bus).
We should admit that the sleeper bus ride wasn’t nearly as unpleasant as we thought it would be, but how anyone can actually sleep on a sleeper bus is utterly baffling to us. The bus driver, as well as every other driver on the road, constantly blare their horns at one another, a row of televisions play loud TV shows, and with every substantial bump, the bus lurches into the air before coming down with enough force to deliver a roller coaster stomach flip. It sounded just the same too with every passenger whoooo!!!-ing in unison.
So, if you find yourself in Southeast Asia and have the option to take a traditional or sleeper bus, we won’t discourage you from the latter as it’s certainly an experience worth having once, but if you actually need to sleep on your journey, do keep the misnomer in mind.
And here’s our quick video!