RANT: Planes, Trains and Sleeper Buses

We’ve been traveling for over six months.  At this point we have slept in over 75 beds in 57 different cities and have taken 11 planes, 12 trains and 35 buses. We can now emphatically state that public transportation is gross.

Being cooped up with several hundred people for hours at a time is never a pleasant experience, but it’s particularly unpleasant when your social norms are at odds with those around you. Our most recent train ride proved too much to handle.  Now it is time for a rant.

Vinnie and our 24th bus ride (through Brunei)

Social Norm #1: Keep the stink to yourself

The 8+ hour train ride began with a stench worse than death. Our impeccably dressed seatmate had placed a 15 pound bag of human excrement above our heads – except instead of human stank, the bag was filled with a massive fruit called Durian that is disallowed in every hotel because of it’s long lasting, highly offensive odor.  The smell penetrates your every pore, leaving behind a stench fouler than rotten eggs and vomit even after it’s gone.

Every jolt of the train brought a fresh waif of creamy, nutty, baby shit in a bag. Puking in the bathroom wasn’t an option, given the predictable state of the train toilet.

No Durians. No live Chickens.

Social Norm #2: Headphones

And during that same odorous train ride a few old men decided to whip out their ancient cellphones to play each and every single ringtone at full volume. Adding to the cell phone cacophony, several teenagers decided to pump out Asia’s top ten from their shiny new Android phones. There is nothing worse than a 24 megahertz rendition of the Black Eyed Pea’s ‘Tonight’s gonna be a good night’ – now the most overplayed song in America AND Asia.

Cell phone nonsense

Social Norm #3: Throw your trash away

For some reason people in many places of Asia think it’s perfectly acceptable to chuck their trash right on the ground.  Not just out the window or onto the street or in the river but directly on the floor beneath their feet. The term “don’t shit where you sleep” doesn’t seem to resonate with people at all. Instead it’s perfectly normal to both throw shit and sleep in the same place – that place being a fucking train filled with a hundred other people.

I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up to a train full of cigarette butts and banana leaves (but I was).

Floor of our train
Sleeping after throwing remains of meal on the ground

This doesn’t even come close to being our worst experience with public transportation, just the most recent. And none of this is really that bad on it’s own, but given a perfect storm of sensory overload, I lose my shit.

Asia can be one stinky, loud, dirty place, but somehow her charms get you in the end. As we got off the bus and wound up at our final destination, this was the view waiting for us –
totally worth an eight hour train from hell.

Foggy, Hazy, Gorgeous Sapa Vietnam
H'Mong people near the Lao Chai Village

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