Hanoi train station
The station in Hanoi is quite bare compared to Europe’s sign-written, commercial railways. Stark grey concrete and not a word of English or at least none that we could see. No shops or the niceties of vending machines or cafes.
The trains are utilitarian and reminiscent of a film noire.
It’d make a great cold war film set. In comparison to the madness of colour, sound and constant frenzied friendliness that is Hanoi it just made me feel cool, cold almost and quite vulnerable.
It was quite an odd feeling on a hot and humid day.
This was when we were sure that going on a G Adventures accompanied group trip was worth the money. The vast open station with platforms lined with long anonymous aged trains was quite daunting. You know in an exciting way.
Officials in Vietnam like a good uniform preferably with braids and metallic trimmings demanding respect.
I didn’t get to grips with who was the police, security or rail staff throughout the whole trip. We meekly followed our impressively uniformed train guard and Cambodian travel guide across train tracks, YES, we walked across the train tracks.
A couple of the larger ‘wheel-alongs’ got caught on the tracks, glad I had my old reliable back pack at this point of the journey. I laughed at the thought of just meandering distractedly across the tracks at Kings Cross and the kerfuffle that would cause, British Rail would be twitching and litigating against such apparent recklessness.
Our guide and the friendly train guard smiled and pointed a lot, limited language skills are never a barrier if accompanied by a smile.
We all got into the right rooms for sleeping our way to Hue. We’d taken bets earlier on which of us would see the most cockroaches on the journey and SURPRISE I won. Just the one roach but as he was behind my pillow I wasn’t that keen on resting alongside him. I couldn’t imagine he’d be the cuddliest bedfellow so I tried to remember to hold my sheet to my mouth as I slept. I’d recalled the myth, well hopefully myth, that you eat eight spiders in your lifetime, how many spiders equate to one roach and has anyone done research on this and if so do I want to know?
All over the globe, no matter where, public transport is not the place to get an upset stomach.
Each traveller had brought food of their choice, the Cambodian guide brought some tiny birds to eat. In the general spirit of ‘what the heck’ I ate one and they were quite tasty, so I troughed about three down before conceding it may not be wise to push my luck and finish the whole tray full. We then sat up playing cards and eating variations noodles and pastries.
We’d a delay where someone died, not due to the birds I hasten to add, someone on the track. We aren’t sure if the train hit them or a car had hit them on the tracks. Very sad but I guess the casualty rates on rails that pass so close through communities and across roads is fairly high.
The rest of our journey was warm and comfortable, and fairly uneventful.
If only they had such carriages on British trains I’d use them often. I’d prefer it not to have a cockroach issue but you pays your money and takes your choice. We got up half an hour before our stop, cleaned up in the end of carriage bathrooms (simple but surprisingly clean.) After packing up we were ready to dismount at speed, it wasn’t long before the train tootled off to the next destination.
It’s a great way of saving money on a hotel, getting somewhere new, catching up with friends or adding to the ever present travel journal.
All in all the train is highly recommended. My trip was a couple of years ago, but I’m sure the adventure today would be just as enjoyable. Just one suggestion, take loo rolls, anti-bac wet wipes, food and if possible someone who can navigate the station in one piece.
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