Determined to use the public transportation of Hanoi, I left my friend with a space on the back of her motorbikes and headed off for a walk in the city before I took the number 8 bus home. In my pocket my worried vietnamese friends had written down what I was to ask the guy who checks/gives out tickets so that he could tell me when to get off the bus. I felt a little over prepared. So, I wandered through the park to where the bus stop was meant to be. Then I made a big mistake. I asked for directions. A guy started speaking to me in very poor french and told me to go 200 m to the right towards the theatre. As I headed off down the street I realised that it had turned into a one way road and any bus going that way wouldn’t be going where I wanted to go. So like somone who has invested badly but hopes they can make it up through more investment, I would just find myself getting further away from where I wanted to be and getting tempted to catch a xe om (but no I didn’t succumb).
I finally spotted the number 8 bus and got so excited I actually exclaimed aloud ‘it’s the number 8 bus’. A few people looked around and I tried to imagine what I would think if someone in Australia enthusiastically announced in another language the existance of a bus. So I followed where it had come from and it took me back to the bus stop 20 m from where I had first asked the man for directions. While I was waiting for the bus school kids flocked out of their school and onto bicycles or their parent’s scooters. The routine of the school pick up with two wheels instead of 4WDs.
Nervously I hopped on the bus and took a seat. It costs 5000 Dong (about 25c) to go anywhere in Hanoi. I handed over the piece of paper to the guy who collects the money and divvies out the tickets. He just smiled that smile of someone who is looking at someone naive and nervous. I soon settled in though and I put a camera on my head to record my experience. This caused a few interesting reactions. The lady next to me apparently was worried about being filmed because she was carrying an oversized bucket that was too big for the bus baggage requirements (the bus is the only mode of transport with restrictions on what load you can carry :P). The ticket guy was intrigued and wondered if I was filming him because I thought he was beautiful. This was all happening through a spontaneous translator standing near the door who chimed in as she saw that I wasn’t understanding what was going on. For the rest of the journey I just sat and looked around. The air conditioning was working and it was quite pleasant even when the bus filled up a little. The voice of the lady who announces the stops í quite elegant and musical in someway.
Traveling on the bus meant I got to see different areas of Hanoi that I normally wouldn’t ride past. We went past a number of schools and I saw the communities of school children and how they would talk, play and start their trip home. I didn’t need the driver to tell me when to get off as I recognised the home stretch and someone had already pressed the stopping button. I jumped off with three students. One was also crossing the road so we crossed together. I have since caught the bus a number of times and once you know where it is and how much it costs, you can sit back and daydream while you watch the hot (both in temperature and looks) motor bike riders outside.
Sorry I haven’t taken any pictures in the bus – but I have lots of footage 🙂