In my previous post on Fare Price Hike, nodink asked my take on riding the public bus in Saigon. Yup! I ride the public Saigon Bus — together with a lot of other foreigners. I think I haven’t been on one without seeing Caucasians or other Asians on it.
Being both a pedestrian and a commuter, I find it safer to be IN the public bus rather than crossing a street with an oncoming bus. But I’ve got to admit though that I haven’t been on too many busy streets where buses are crisscrossing left and right. Buses follow a certain route only and usually this routes are not the usual areas I frequent. Like the motorbikes, buses enjoy a cruise speed of… 40kph too! So I hardly find that threatening when crossing the streets.
I haven’t had any unlucky experience riding a public bus in Saigon. Truth be told, I think it’s safe. Safe enough to even let my 2-year old son ride with me. Should you get into an accident *knock on wood* at least you have metal upon metal to take the brunt of the collision UNLIKE riding a motorbike when your body will essentially test Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion. I’ll take the bus any given day.
Now the sights and sound in the public bus is something I don’t see or hear quite often when riding the bus in Manila. I have only been in 3 bus routes, Bus no. 102 (Ben Thanh-PMH), Bus no. 1 (Ben Thanh-Cho Lon), and Bus no. 19 (the one that takes you to Suoi Tien). I have used Bus no. 102 often and been thrown in together with locals bringing transporting their wares to the market — this range from wet goods, vegetables, and to live chickens. So don’t be surprised when you hear your bus seat mate cock-a-doodle-dooing for the whole duration of the ride.
I’ve always timed my bus rides to avoid the morning and late afternoon rush but I have been on the bus one time to Suoi Tien themepark and it was a holiday! Now, the aircondition was on and all but man, with the number of people? The bus was packed! Now, I’m no stranger to standing room only situation on buses because back in Manila, I would get on one instead of waiting for the next bus that can take hours to come. But at least then, the aircondition can really cool the entire bus even when its packed. However, factors such as the time of day and the weather/season can add to the overall heated experience. 🙂
What I dislike about riding the public bus though is that:
- the long and winding road – Taking the bus can eat up a lot of your time because it takes a longer route and has a lot of stops. Now factor in the 40 kph cruise speed and compute your commuting time.
- far bus stops – Now this is from my experience only since my route may be different from other people. However, my bus stop for Bus No. 102 (from PMH to Ben Thanh) is a good 10-15 minute walk from my apartment. Now that’s a lot of wasted time. And I don’t want to be getting to my office all sweaty. Conversely though, the bus stop back to PMH is right in front my apartment complex. So why don’t I just get on that stop to get to work? The route is longer.
- short bus schedule – Admittedly, I don’t ride the bus a whole lot in Manila since we have train systems. But our buses are still available till late into the night. Here, the earliest bus starts its route at 4:45 am. I read that the last trip can end around 9:30 pm but for major thoroughfares in Saigon, the last trip is at 6:45 pm — and that’s really early. No wonder people opt to bring their motorbikes instead.
- no queuing system – This is apparent especially when you take a bus from the bus station/terminal. I would love to see an orderly queue. Is not queuing a cultural thing for the Vietnamese? I think this is something that can be enforced by officials. No queuing system applies also to my favorite Dong Khoi-PMH shuttle bus. 😦 And even if there are lines, such as in the grocery when paying, a local will try to cut you in line. Just an observation.
What I like though about the public bus system in Saigon is that it’s cheap despite the additional 1,000 VND increase and that the system is government-regulated. In Manila (sigh), we have lots of private buses doing the same routes all over the city that leads to road congestion. During non-rush hours, you’d see the buses with only very, very few passengers. What a waste of road space!
So do I recommend riding a public bus in Saigon? If you’re not to finicky and sensitive to odd sounds and smells (sometimes), then by all means, get on one! 🙂
nodink, be not afraid. 😀
*photo swiped from GMR-SGNDV