The Case of the Missing Tourists
Last week I caught the overnight sleeper bus from Ho Chi Minh city to Dalat with my new friend Sarah. Leaving HCMC at about 11pm, we would travel during the night and reach Dalat at 6am, The buses had two levels of seats/beds. I was on the bottom level, and in the bed above me was this little old Vietnamese lady. She had smiled at me when she got on the bus and I’d said a few of the only words I knew “Xin Chao” (hello).
The bus stopped for a bathroom and tea break at about 2am at a roadhouse that had a line of buses with all the same colour and company name. We did note our number plate to be sure we’d get back on the right one, then we went to find the restrooms. After returning we went to stand near a tree on the other side of our bus.
A few minutes later, the little old lady reappeared, noticed that the bus next to us had left, looked around frantically, then sent her husband onto the bus while barking instructions. She looked visibly stressed. I wondered whether she had thought her bus had left. But then I saw her husband at our seats pointing and calling back to his wife. The little old lady started to call others and looked very worried. I suddenly had a thought that maybe she was looking for us. So I moved back towards the bus from behind the tree. She saw me, touched her hand to her heart, and came over and held my arm. It was so sweet. We laughed together and she calmed down. I offered her and her husband some dried ginger treats. She tried to speak to me but all I understood was “Dalat”. “Yes Dalat” I said. She nodded and smiled. She never let Sarah or I out of her sight again.
Later in the evening, she and her husband climbed down from their top level beds to disembark the bus at a town before Dalat. Once on the bottom level, she was getting bumped about by the bus. She simply sat down on my lap, we held each other’s arms, and she sat there for 10 minutes until the bus stopped. Her clothes smelt of cooked eggs. It was very funny and very sweet all at the same time. When she disembarked, we said goodbye, I said thank you, and they left.
I wish I had known her name, but these interactions sometimes happen too quickly, and my language skills need some improvement. What a beautiful little lady she was.
(Note: The lady in the photo is not the actual lady from the bus. This lady sold lottery tickets when I was having lunch one day, and was also very sweet.)