Train from Hanoi to Danang 28th October 2016
Bet Jaki wishes she’d listened to me now when I suggested we pay the extra cost of a Deluxe cabin which has two beds rather than the cabin we’ve been allocated sleeping four.
Ok, Its reasonably Comfortable but it aint first class.
We travelled second class sleeper from Bangkok to Chang Mai some years ago but this is a different class altogether , much more old fashioned, far less privacy.
When we got on carriage number one we found two old boys led on the bottom bunks, shoes off reading their papers. Neither spoke English so we spent a lot of time playing Charades. They had their baggage hung on a hook by their beds . Our suitcases had to go under their bunks which was a bit complicated as they only just fitted and we needed to shove these guys out of the way to get them in.
Then we saw our bunks. They were a bit spartan to say the least.
Climbing up there was gonna be a problem. There was just one foot hold at about shoulder height and a handle to grab further up. You have to get one foot on the stirrup, grab the handle and pull yourself up, then shimmy round and get yer Bum on the bunk.
Jaki’s first attempt failed miserably.
So,we swapped sides and she got her good leg up onto the stirrup, one big push and she was there. Whether she’ll ever come down again remains to be seen.
We’re now both perched on our bunks with the worst Vietnames music blaring from a speaker in the ceiling and it’s starting to get rocky as the train pulls away.. We’ve had to open the ear plugs already. what a good start.
The old boys down stairs seem to be settling in for an early night and its only 1941 so we wont be able to wander around much from now on. Just knowing that makes me need the toilet badly.
Then, two incidents happened simultaneously.
Two blokes came into our carriage, spoke to the old boys, made them move their legs, then sat on the beds where they started looking at their phone’s.
Jaki stared at me pleadingly.
“They aren’t gonna stay there are they.” She said using her telepathic skills.
“ I hope not”. I said back, just as secretly.
At that very moment, a rather large Cockroach also entered the cabin, this time from a crack between the wall and the ceiling. It ran along the wall narrowly avoiding Jaki’s attempts to squash it with her reading glasses.
It was getting crowded and there wasn’t any room for more of us.
One of the old boys sensed this too and decided enough was enough. After some heated discussion, he threw the two interlopers out, slamming and locking the door behind them.
We gave him a thumb’s up and he smiled triumphantly.
So it looked like it was just us 4 humans and the Cockroach.
This bit of excitement obviously tired everyone out and it wasn’t long before the Old Boys were settling down for the night. Curtains were drawn (The ones on the window, unlike Thailand there are no modesty curtains on each bunk here in Vietnam) and the lights were switched off.
Jaki was reading and i was writing my blog in between the lurching of the train, it was by now totally dark.
Then the large heavy door ( on rather arthritic rollers) was swung open, light’s went on and it was, ‘dinner time’.
The cart that appeared outside the door was selling a range of dishes which smelt extremely pungent and looked (from up here at least) a sort of grey colour but they were obviously desirable dishes as our fellow travellers both bought a bowl.
They sat on their bunks slurping contentedly, draining the remains like my Grand Dad used to drink his tea, from the saucer.
As quick as it started, it finished. Dishes were gone, lights were out, only the aroma remaining.
It was a bit early for me so I watched a few episodes of Game of Throne’s which I had down loaded onto the laptop. Sadly I’d down loaded some old episodes which Ive already watched but this was better than nothing.
When they were done I thought I’d give sleep a try and settled down, pulling the single sheet (it turned out to be a caramel coloured duvet cover with no duvet inside it) over me to try to stop the chill from the air conditioning vent positioned right over my bed which I now realised was blowing cold air directly onto my bunk.
It got very cold very quickly and I tried various ways of off setting the draft but to no avail.
Eventually i woke Jaki and got her to take our only towel out of her back pack and let me have it as a blanket, but this was small compensation and i was going to need more than just that.
Slipping off my bunk (trying not to disturb the guy below) I went out on a recce.
Most of the staff had made themselves up little beds in cupboards or on the floor. One even had a small deck chair and they were sleeping soundly. No help there then.
After two carriages I found a pile of duvet covers on the floor it looked like they had been put there ready for someone to sleep on, so I grabbed a bundle and legged it back to our cabin.
In total I had 4 covers and one towel on me but that was ‘only just’ enough to overcome the cold air from the now angry air-con unit which had upped its game since I had my new protection.
Sleep came in fits and starts.
As well as the cold there was the distraction of my fellow passengers who were clearly of an age where the prostate gland makes for sleepless night’s and they were in and out throughout the night.
With the subsequent noise from the door each time they came in or out. It was like a prison door with a large metal lever that had to be slammed into place before a large turn key lock could be secured.
jaki decided to add a bit of colour and began snoring loudly at one point.
Fearing I’d get the blame I gave her a good poke across the void, which seemed to do the trick.
At first light, our neighbours decided it was time we all got up, so they opened the curtains, switched on the light and started chatting. Wandering around opening and closing the door as if they owned the place.
I buried myself deeper into my bundle of covers and tried to sleep through it as i was particularly knackered and there was still another 6 hours left before we got to Da Nang.
Then I felt some one tugging my covers off.
Opening my eyes there was a very disgruntled steward trying to reclaim the duvets which he claimed belonged to carriage 2 cabin 11. I was cursing him in English and I’m sure he was doing the same to me in Vietnamese.
I resisted as best a bloke can led on a top bunk in a moving train, with frost bite, but he managed to get at least one off me.
Not long after that there was more excitement.
The breakfast trolley had arrived with Boiled eggs, corn on the cob and (as chosen by one of the old boys) boiled rice with bread.
One of my all time favourites For my Fat Boys Breakfast Blog.
I turned over and tried to ignore it.
A little late I opened an eye and one of the guys was stood right by my bunk cleaning his ear with a piece of bamboo. I had a grandstand view of this surgical procedure (his head was just about level with my eye) as he excavated small balls of ear wax from what were some pretty good sized ears, rolled it and flicked it on the floor.
Embarrasing Bodies in the flesh.
I conceded defeat and got myself up. Which was lucky because one of the old boys is now reading the paper out loud to the other old boy who seems a bit deaf, even though he has just removed an ounce of ear wax.
It wasn’t long before the inevitable happened and I was forced to find a toilet that wasn’t completely trashed, had enough toilet paper left to wipe the pee off the seat and preferably, had a working lock on the door. It was three carriages down before I found the right combination and was able to complete my ablutions satisfactorily.
It is ‘first come first served’ when it comes to the toilets on a Vietnamese train.
They don’t get cleaned along the route, the Paper doesn’t get restocked and they clearly don’t do any repairs (to the toilets or anything else). So, bring your own paper, lots of it, maybe even a disposable glove if your squeamish, also ‘wet wipes and hand sanitiser’ or you could be in trouble.
Back at Ice Station Zebra not much had changed. It was still sub zero but it appeared to be how the old boys liked it as they were settling in for a mid morning snooze now we were up and out of their way.
The rest of the journey (about 4-5 hours) was tedious. The train moved at a snails pace, hemmed in on both sides by the undergrowth and Jungle which seemed to want to reclaim the line.
There were grasses whose tufts were gossamer, so light they were like mist at the top of each stalk, others with massive Burnt Umber heads that bobbed and swayed as we passed. There was an odd glimpse of a water fall, rivers or streams but these cameo appearances did little to distract from the mind numbing boredom, and the cold.
Then it was 11 am and the food cart came around again, laden with rice, barbecued Pork, big fat sausages on sticks, cut diagonally to expose their insides to the heat. Boiled eggs deep fried, Fruit of all descriptions and some dark green vegetables that were cooked so long they had lost all identity.
Again our ravenous old boys swooped and carted off tray’s (laden with a selection of said goodies) back to their bunks for another feast.
When at last we rolled into Da Nang we weren’t sure if it was intact our stop as we had assumed it was the end of the line but our old boys had gone back to bed and were sleeping soundly when we pulled our cases out from under neath them.
We left the train and our bags were swept up by an elderly porter who charged us 50,000 Dong to carry them out to the Taxi rank where we allocated a car. We showed the Hotel address to the driver and without any fuss, were driven to our new residence for our three day beach holiday.
This would be great. R&R.
When we got there the Hotel looked great very modern, nice and clean maybe a bit farther from the beach than expected and it had no pool (a booking error on our part).
Our receptionist looked rather Sheepish and was very apologetic whilst informing us that the government had decided to cut the power supply to the whole of Da Nang tomorrow (due to Opec she seemed to think but we couldn’t fully understand why) so there would be nothing going on in Da Nang to morrow until 6pm when the power would be switched back on. That meant, from 12 midnight there would be no lights, no lift (were on the third floor) and no Air-conditioning, and its hot.
They gave us a rather natty camping lamp as our only means of finding our way around in the darkness.
As compensation they have organised a day trip to Hoi An free of charge, we should be ready by 0900hrs.
So, Yet another trip! Yahoo.
We’ve been away four weeks and I haven’t as yet, seen a beach that alone sat on one.