Tuesday, 8 December 2015

On track again (a day train from Vinh to Hue)

I bought a ticket for the 12:08  train today  because I thought it would give me enough time to see more of Vinh.  I guess the 400 steps and the motorbike ride were worth it, but a morning trip to a sunny beach would have been preferable.

At 11 am it has started to rain ;-(  Good timing for leaving this city though.

I look at my ticket. Yesterday I was in berth 14 in car 10. Today I will be in berth 13 in car 10. 

Thirteen!  Well well!   If the Vietnamese aren't superstitious, I won't freak out either!

Then I notice that my ticket has the price printed on it.  I dig out the train-station-issued ticket from Hanoi to Vinh that my receptionist had organized for me. Upon close inspection I notice that there is a "Be at the station 30 minutes prior to departure" STICKER on the ticket. The price would be below that.   Back in Hanoi I still didn't know that the price at the train station is less than half that of the one charged by Vietnam Railways System.  My receptionist had seen me check that web-site. Instead of the web-sites US$ 34, I paid US$ 28.  The REAL price is listed on the digital display boards and is 380,000 VND, i.e. about US$ 17.   Someone added more than 10 US$ to the price and covered it up with a sticker!   Ah well, I'll tell him that I noticed the gambit when I'm back in the hotel later this month. At least then he will know better than to expect a tip at the time of my departure.

At the train station I talk to a German couple, who just arrived by overland bus from Laos.  She is panicking "Is that really our train?"  Of course it is, there are not THAT many trains running in Vietnam.

I should arrive in Hue at 8 pm tonight and the forecast for Hue calls for 30 degrees Celsius and rain for tomorrow. and 35 and sun for Thursday.  OMG, what have I got myself into?

I find my berth in a compartment that shows heavy signs of having been used.  I didn't know hair oil could leave such stains on a pillow ;-(   My pillow was used to but exhibits no smells or stains, so I'm quite happy to use it. 

To start  the journey right, I all asleep for two whole hours.

When I awake the train is meandering its way through terrain that only a nutcase could think it could get enemy forces out of. Insanely steep and covered by plants growing on top of plants growing on top of god knows what.   Now add lots of water to the recipe and you get a quagmire ;-)   

Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh understood that well.
I stole this brilliant picture from http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Vietnam/Mekong_River_Delta/Can_Tho/Can_Tho/photo1203372.htm

3 pm.I have another 5 hours of train travel ahead of me.  I just can't understand how people can take this train for 24 or even 48 hours.  The train in Sai Gon must only discard people on wobbly knees suffering from some emotional trauma or syndrome.

Now here is a bored train-rider riddle: which direction is the train  travelling in?

On the other hand, it was only last week that I finished the last posts of my October trip to Asia. Oh, actually, there are still unposted ones ;-(  Anyhoo, my point is that these endless hours of train travel are also very conducive to keeping up with the blog schedule.  Right now I'm switching between typing away at the impressions of the current train trip and I frequently switch to a different window to finish the post illustrating my visit to Vinh from yesterday to today.

It also gives me time to look at maps, and I just realized that the train is approaching Dong Hoi, where the entire country of Vietnam between the ocean and the border to Laos only measures something like 40 kms.

Some of the stops at insanely small train stations probably only are taken to let an oncoming train pass.  The train line along the ~1500 km from Sa Pa to Sai Gon is only single track.

The ride continues ...

4 hours into the journey I am still the sole occupant of my compartment and I must admit that I hope it stays that way.  I'm already too train-wrecked to want to carry on much conversation or smile too much.

That said, in Dong Hoi my compartment fills with 3 independent Vietnamese males. I chat with one for a minute and then lay down and despite their snoring fall asleep for yet another hour.

One of quite a few cemeteries

Obama wears a THONG and SE X IS mentioned in this paper (It sucks not speaking Viet)

??? Traps for flying fish ???? Gaia washing her bra ?????

6 pm. 1.5  hours to go.  Now I know why people take the night trains.  You fall asleep and don't wake up before you reach your destination.  

The countryside outside the windows now appears pitch dark with individual lights scattered about. No more pictures until Ga Hue ;-(

Dong Ha, unfortunately NOT my BRILLIANT picture

Dong Ha!  Less than one hour to go to Hue and I use the stop for a full cigarette on the station's platform.

A broom. Not made from plastic. Made by hand in Vietnam from cheap natural fibers.  Your typical BLOWER-using Vancouverite doesn't even know what a broom looks like anymore ;-(

By now the train is 10 minutes late and reaches Hue at 7:55 pm.
Vending stands on the way to the exit
I have reached Hue, capital city of the former Nguyen Empire and home to yet another Unesco World Heritage site.    

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