Midnight Express from Hell.... or Train to Sapa

Trip Start Feb 05, 2009
Trip End Mar 07, 2009

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spent yesterday browsing through Hanoi - have fairly well 'done it'.  Had organised our overnight train trip up to Lao Cai and then the transfer to Sapa (about an hour from Lao Cai). The tour company had shown us the 'silver bullet train' pictures and we had been given a voucher for the travel.  We had the hotel book a taxi (have walked too too much) and they told the driver only to charge about 25,000VD for the trip. The driver took us to the station (7.00) and proceded to say it was 50,000VD.  Now to get this in perspective we are only talking a difference of $2.50AUD but we are a bit over the scamming... Dave said no he could have 30,000VD (we had already agreed to give a tip but this p... us off) - he took the 30,000VD. 

We go into the station and tried to exchange the voucher for a ticket and was told the tour company would come about 8.30 to give us the train ticket.  As time passed I asked where I could get the ticket.  A guy said we were in the wrong place and while Dave sat said to follow him through the door of the station... he had my voucher so of course I followed him - you do not let go of your voucher....  We went out the door, into the rail yard... by this time I thought I was never going to be seen again... over the tracks ... waited for a train to pass... and finally into the other station.. through corridors to a tour desk there... no one knew what I should do or where to get our ticket...  We went out of the station through the carpark.. (I looked out for the bastard taxi driver who may be there wearing our wet weather jacket - I was gonna fix him up), meanwhile we are joined by yet another fella who came with us to a counter with some girls behind it... they didnt give a toss... so we went out to the main station area.  Another guy came up and they studied the voucher and helped by ringing the tour company who said they were on their way.... I said I needed to get Dave from the other station... he was fuming because he didnt know where I was.... I ran back over the tracks to the other station to get him and brought him back over the tracks ... they rang the tour company who said they were still coming.  Meanwhile the train leaves at 9.10 so they want us on the train at 9.00 with no ticket... (it will be ok he says.. I have plan B... you go to the train... when (if) your ticket arrives we will bring it to the train.... anyway just as we were about to go the ticket 'appeared'??? and they took us to the train... it cost us $20AUD in tips to the guys for their 'help'.....

Anyway the train wasnt any 'silver bullet' I can tell you!  Sort of like the old red hens... 100 gauge steel mesh on the windows... dont know if that was to keep us in if we rolled or to stop everyone throwing stuff out the windows????   We were in the cabin with a vietnamese couple and our complimentary bottle of water!  Of course in planning the trip I had anticipated train bedding and packet nice plastic sheets and clean white cotton sheets to sleep on.... well the bastard taxi driver has them doesnt he!!!! so we tried to sleep withou using the train pillows (yuk) and quilt (Yuk Yuk). 

Now we learnt from our trip from Hue to Hanoi that you get on and as soon as they unlock the toilet (yes, they padlock the door until you are underway).. you get in to be first!....  How can I explain the toilet experience on the Vietnamese train.  (Dave says you might as well p...ss down your leg.. because you get the same effect!!!)  Well, I think its like trying to go to the toilet in an upright coffin that has a hole in the bottom...... you take down you pants and hover over the hole while the train is rattling from side to side... one hand is on your pants trying to avoid peeing on them while your other hand is on the hand rail (although you are trying to touch as little as possible)... meanwhile pee is splashing up your ankles..(Dave says this was the only warm thing on the train)...and that is why you bring lots and lots of moist wipes with you... something I planned well but the bastard taxi driver had those in the back pack as well!!!  ...  the hole in the floor is not a good experience .. however there was a western toilet in the next carriage but by the time the guy before me came out there was that much pee on the seat I passed and went for the hole!!!!

We pulled into Lao Cai at 5.30am .... what are they thinking!!! By this time you want to go to the toilet again but you just dont want to go through that again.....

So we board the bus and there is that much fog we thought we were all gonna die...... we had about an hours trip to Sapa and did eventually get there safely.

It is all worthwhile though,  Sapa is spectacular. Lots of Hmong people... trying to sell you everything you dont want.  Dave is getting short on patience...at one point I had 5 Hmong girls... just walking with us...... they are very friendly people and actually the only people in Vietnam I have seen actually laugh out loud.  The kids are beautiful.

We walked from Sapa town to Cat Cat Village down below.  Finally got below the clouds.  They live quite happily amongst their buffalo, pigs, dogs, ducks, chickens..... kids everywhere... we had a great day... its nice to be away from the cities again.......

So we have two more days here and then back to Hanoi for one day of rest in bed after yet another ride from hell on the overnight train.... I think I will fast for 24 hours prior to try to avoid the loo.  Dave and I have both had an attack of the bed bugs... blasted itchy bites driving us crazy........... I worked out if I put deodorant on them they stop itching.... sort of.........................
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