The blog post today is about how far you can go outside Hà Nội with your 200k bus card.
Apparently, it is not Bắc Ninh (bus no. 204 or 54) or, presumably, the even more distant Bắc Giang (bus no.203). For the first thing the ticket seller did after leaving Long Bien bus station was to wave away my bus card and ask for the 20k VNDong fare.
Technically, Bắc Ninh, Vietnam’s smallest city, is in another province so that is probably the reason. Still, at less than a dollar to get out of Ha Noi and into the countryside it was well worth it to get some fresh air. Better still, I got a seat the whole way unlike many other passengers travelling on a holiday weekend.
Bit of craic on the bus, too, using my dodgy Vietnamese before falling into conversation with a young soldier. We spoke the whole way, our conversation only being interrupted by a commotion behind us when somebody threw up. This necessitated stopping at a building site so the ticket seller (conductor) could hop out and scoop up a handful of sand to deal with the mess like an ‘old school’ janitor.
Just before he got off my travelling companion revealed that he had never spoken to a foreigner before because he wasn’t confident enough about his English. Hopefully I won’t be the last since we persevered after a faltering start while he tuned into my Scottish accent.
He helped me with my Vietnamese, with communicating with other passengers and texting my friend with our updated location so she could meet me at the bus stop in Bắc Ninh. So it was a win-win for us both.
Meanwhile, the question remains: how far can you go with a bus card? Can you use it on the new 86 shuttle bus service to the airport? (Update: No)
All I know is that the furthest I have wandered with my bus card is the Chùa trung hậu (pagoda) out towards Vĩnh Phúc. This is a No.58 with a change at the Kim Chung roundabout, just after the bridge. It’s a big roundabout and difficult to miss. Get off and cross the road, go under the flyover and cross the road on the other side. The no.63 leaves from in front of some tea stalls on the far side.
On the way to the pagoda you pass a Bia Ha Noi brewery then go through a small town. The pagoda is on your left on the outskirts of the town. Be sure to tell the ticket seller where you are going as the stop is immediately after a blind bend.
There is a bus stop outside the pagoda’s main entrance where you catch the No.63 back to Kim Chung roundabout. Get the 58 back to Ha Noi at the bus stop over the crash barrier.
But I am sure I can go further than that. To be continued.