Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The 'machete' bus journey from Vang Vieng to Hanoi

We paid 290,000kip each for a coach with sleeper beds and a toilet, there was no negotiation on the price and we were told that the journey would take 26hrs.

We were picked up from our guest house at 1:30pm and driven to the bus station where we boarded a coach that left at around 2:30pm. We arrived in Vientiene at around 6pm and were told to change buses from here. A small open back truck then drove us for 30 minutes or so to another bus station and from here we boarded the sleeper bus to Hanoi.

The bus seats wouldn't completely lay out flat and they were quite small, someone who is tall may find this too uncomfortable/claustrophobic as your feet are wedged underneath the other seats in front. Also there was no toilet on board!

After driving for a few hours we came to a stop at a roadside shack where you could buy some dinner and use the toilet. After a 20 minute stop we boarded the bus but found that our seats had been dismantled and there was a local guy trying to access some boxes hidden beneath them. It turned out that these boxes contained motorbike helmets and for some reason these were being moved to the opposite side of the bus, again hidden underneath the seats.

We patiently waited on the bus and the remainder of the tourists were told not to board until everything had been moved. During this, the bus driver and the other guy started having a heated argument. We couldn't understand what it was all about but the situation escalated and by now both men were shouting at each other.

The next thing i know the man removing the boxes picked up a motorbike helmet and chucked it at the bus driver. Both men then ran off the bus with one storming into the restaurant and then coming back with a machete! Once the bus driver saw the machete, he then ran back onto the bus and picked up a metal pole. The two men began fighting outside and some of the tourists and locals broke it up but then it all kicked off again and now bricks were being used as weapons.

During the next fight i saw the bus driver smash a plastic chair over a different local and another bus had its front window cracked. Eventually everything seemed to calm down, one man escaped with a cut arm and there didn't appear to be any serious injuries, i think the weapons had been mostly used for show.

People started coming back onto the bus and the bus driver continued the journey as though nothing had happened, although i was slightly concerned for our safety and couldn't relax.

We reached the Laos/Vietnam boarder at 2am and stayed stationary until 6am when we were told we needed to have our passports stamped and checked. The whole process was a little confusing, as none of the bus staff spoke much English and we then found out that the boarder didn't open until 7am. After we had our passports checked we had to wait at the other side of the boarder for the coach to pass through but once again no one explained this and all of us were left out in the cold, quite literally!

Once we had passed the Laos border we then had to pay $1 to the Vietnam border control. We didn't have any dollars and had to borrow some from Josh. All our luggage was then taken off the coach and we proceeded to 'check-in' to have our luggage scanned.

We didn't get going again until 10am and when we stopped off for some food it was ridiculously overpriced (£4 for chicken and rice!). Just before the bus station a local man boarded and explained that we could all get a mini bus with him for 10,000Don each to the 'Old Quarter'. We all decided to take him up on the offer as the price seemed reasonable enough and we had wanted to stay in the area he was heading.

Eventually we arrived at Hanoi at 7:15pm, all in all the journey took about 31hrs.


  1. omg.... feel sorry for u, we gonna do same trip tomorrow so hopefully nothing like that will happend :)

  2. It was actually very comical and looking back now i find it hilarious. Hope your bus journey wasn't too bad :)

  3. Oh my God! I'm trying to decide whether to take the bus or to suck up the expense and fly.. hmm. Every story I read seems to be bad, but then again, everyone survived to tell the tale!! My main worry is the roads - it's rainy season and I saw a bus that had crashed on a foggy mountainside a couple of days ago so I'm convinced the same will happen to me! Must stop worrying.