It's inevitable when you're backpacking that you will have to endure many, many hours on various different modes of transport, varying dramatically in comfort depending on your budget, and your location.
I've been travelling through Asia for three weeks, and so far I've been making my way around on everything from tuk tuks, motorbikes, overnight sleeper buses, long boats, fishing boats, bicycles, sleeper trains, minibuses, and even elephants.
Something most people (including myself) don't take into account when booking their travels is exactly how much time you'll be spending getting from A to B and how do you put up with such prolonged periods of time on public transport.
From all my long hours stuck travelling from place to place I managed to come up with a few handy hints on surviving public transport in Asia:
1.) Never assume that your arrival time will actually be the correct time. Five hours in Cambodian time is usually more like seven, especially if your bus breaks down which, more often than not, it will
Breaking down in the middle of nowhere in Cambodia- Fun times!
2.) Always make the most out of your hostel's travel services if they offer any. It saves you time and money getting to the bus or train station as they usually pick you up from the reception and organise any stop off's for you
3.) Don't expect that because you're on a 25 hour bus there will be a toilet. Do, however, expect that if there will be a toilet it will probably be a rather unpleasent experience using it
4.) Remember the essentials: Food, water, a jumper for the fierce air con, ear plugs for the dodgy local videos/karaoke tapes, an iPod (for the same reason) sleeping tablets, an eye mask, and a phrase book- particularly for Laos as guaranteed nobody will speak English
5.) Be prepared to pay a little extra for more comfort. On the train opt for a soft sleeper instead of a hard one, and sleeper buses are always better than seated as you get your own space and you skip paying for a night's accommodation so you save a few pounds as well!
A 12 hour sleeper bus in Vietnam
Getting spoilt by the local Vietnamese ladies on my train- they fed me up the whole way and tried to set me up with their sons!
Although it can be a massive drag spending so much time getting from place to place, it usually does turn out to be a fun part of the experience, and if you're travelling solo then it can be pretty good for meeting new people too :)
4 people on a bike in Vietman- always a good idea!