I woke up very excited on the 19th of December. It was a hot Thursday and I was ready to get away from the heat. My boyfriend was just about to land in Ho Chi Minh City and we both had booked a bus to Da Lat. We literally had about an hour from his arrival at my house, to chow down some lunch and make our way to the bus stand at Le Hong Phong in District 5. I made sure to order in my lunch so we would save time!
But first, why Da Lat?
Da Lat is a mountainous getaway in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, known for its cool weather, outrageous nature and delicious coffee. Because my boyfriend wasn’t able to get many days off for the trip, we really only had three days to make the best of his time here, and Da Lat easily beat out the other cities in the vicinity such as Vung Tau, Mui Ne and the Mekong Delta.
The city was only a 6 hour bus ride, and once in the city, we planned a two day itinerary full of adventure. The kind of adventure you couldn’t get in Ho Chi Minh City, or anywhere else nearby.
The booking process was super simple
By 12:15 PM, we were at the Le Hong Phong bus station which is about 15 minutes away from the Ho Chi Minh City center. Our bus was to depart at 1:00 PM but we arrived 45 minutes early, like it said on our ticket. We booked our tickets online, and it was the easiest thing. All we had to do was plug in our departure and arrival details and choose the appropriate transport.
We chose the VIP limousine bus by Thanh Buoi based on the good reviews it had. The next step was to pay online and I received an email within a day that everything was confirmed and all I had to do was pack a bag!
Once we got to the station, I showed the reception ladies my Bookaway ticket on our phones and they printed out their version for us and wrote the bus number. All we had to do now was wait. While the English wasn’t the best, it was enough for us to understand what we had to do.
The bus station was rather small, with enough seating for about 20 people. It was also full, so we waited outside in the sun. There were some stalls where we were able to grab a cup of iced coffee and some snacks for our journey. Our ticket was frequently checked by the Thanh Buoi team to make sure we didn’t miss our bus. Then, a small minivan arrived and we were told to get in. We were actually under the impression that we would board the bus at this station, but nope!
The minivan literally drove us for about 5 minutes and we arrived at the bus that was just parked on the sidewalk on a random street. It was a huge bus, with cabins for each traveler. We took our shoes off at the foot of the bus and we were given plastic bags to put them in. Once we boarded, we gasped at how cool the interior was. It really resembled a capsule hotel.
The bus was unlike anything I’ve been on before
The cabins were extremely comfortable. First, there is a curtain for privacy, and all I could think was, “Woohoo, no one is gonna see my ugly drooling face when I fall asleep!” Second, the seat reclines all the way so it becomes a bed for you. You’re given a pillow for your head, a long pillow to straddle if you sleep on your side, and a blanket to keep you warm if the bus becomes cold.
Don’t worry though – you can also turn off the AC in your mini cabin. There is a reading light, sockets to charge your phone, a curtain for the window and storage space for your items, food and bottles. You are also given a bottle of water and a cold wet towel. It really is luxurious travel.
The roads to Da Lat are stunning
The bus ride was extremely comfortable. My boyfriend and I were given lower bunks and at the start of the journey we just opened our curtains and played a question and answer game using the Book of Questions as inspiration. It’s great for long distance travel with a partner! The views from your windows are amazing too and we had to look outside from time to time. In the first hour or so, it’s only city and traffic, but once you get beyond that, you’ll pass every shade of green and brown. Mountains begin taking shape, near and far.
A couple hours later, we both got sleepy so we tucked in for the remainder of the journey. Bear in mind, it’s a winding road up mountains to Da Lat, so your body might get thrown around a little within your cabin, but the drivers are smooth. The ride is also quite long too, but there are two stops in the middle for you to use the bathroom and grab a snack.
Many buses down the Da Lat – Ho Chi Minh City route stop at these places so you’ll make some friends who happen to be on the same journey. Remember to try a noodle or a rice dish and stock up some snacks for the rest of your ride. The pit stops last about 20 minutes so you’ll have enough time to chow down on something comfortably.
A late night arrival
We reached Da Lat around 9:00 PM. The arrival station in Da Lat was rather large, and we were in a hurry to get to our hotel because it was late, so we didn’t venture inside. Luckily we didn’t have to stress out about finding transport to our hotel as the company arranges a shuttle straight to your hotel! How convenient. Thirty minutes later, we were happily at our homestay, being served a warm bowl of noodles (it was really cold outside!), and enjoying a meal with the lovely homestay owners. A good night’s sleep and two days of adventure was waiting!