It takes me about 1 hour to get to work each day, and about 45 mins of that time is on the bus. It’s the same going back.
The bus system is different from America. In addition to the fact that there is no timetable, there are two people that operate the bus. One bus driver, and one fare collector that sits (or stands – depending on how many people) on the side. S/he has a wad of bills and tickets to give to people who take the bus. I really like that the bus gives you change. You can break larger bills! But not too large of a bill!
There are courtesy seats for disabled people, the elderly, people with kids, and pregnant women. And the guy that takes the fare enforces this. He will tap you on the shoulder so you could give up your seat. But, he also makes sure that if there are seats for you, you get one. He will point one out if you are not be able to see one in the back.
Today, the bus was VERY crowded in the morning. People were standing shoulder-to-shoulder and they still let people in. It is definitely not the place for claustrophobic people. If you take the bus a lot, you know there is a certain way to act on the bus. You shouldn’t be too loud. There are like, ” rows” that get established when too many people get on the bus. People sit down along the sides and the back of the bus. Then, if there are more people, then people stand in front of those people and hold the hand railing that is along the wall of the bus. Then, if there are more people, then people would stand next to the previous people and hold the hand railing that is on the ceiling. I hope that makes sense. It’s kind of hard to express; it’s something to experience. But, if you think of a circle, people kind of fill up the bus from the outside in, but doing so in rows, instead of just pushing everybody to the back. The good thing is, the bus is air conditioned, so I never feel too uncomfortable.
The rush hours here are from 7-9am and from 4:30-6:30pm, so around the times I travel to and from work. I am getting used to using the bus here, but it definitely requires a lot of energy every day.
Oh! And the bus is very decently priced. I am not sure how much it is in relation to the standard income here, but each bus for me is a flat rate of 7000 VND, which is about $0.33 USD. The fare can vary, depending on the distance the bus travels, from 5000 VND to 9000 VND. It is interesting to compare BART or AC Transit to the bus here. BART charges by the distance so it gets more expensive as you go farther. AC Transit is a flat rate of $2.10, I believe.
I am getting a bus pass soon, but here is picture of some of the tickets I’ve accumulated:
I guess I like 26 the best; it’s the one that takes me to work.
As you can see, they are different colors for the same bus route. They represent the direction of the traveler. For the 26, I get the pink ticket on the way to work, and I get the white one on the way back from work. It is a good way for the fare collector to check if you paid!
I just wanted to share this piece of culture because I experience it nearly every day.
On a tangent: On the bus the other day, I was asked for directions in Vietnamese. A man had asked me about a particular stop, and of course, I had no idea. I told him so, but it was soooo cool to be thought of and seen as Vietnamese! :)
Over and out.
PS. I am posting this Saturday, but I started writing this post on a Friday.