Destination Hanoi, Durian carriage, Dead people

Trip Start Jan 27, 2014
Trip End Feb 24, 2014

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Where I stayed
Angel Palace

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's Hanoi or Bust day !
Dong Hoi train station dropoff and we've been advised to buy snacks as the food on the train is terrible. I send J-she off in an attempt to stock up on the little street fronting the station and she does a circuit and comes back empty handed. Pushy stall owners and inflated prices, all they want to sell us whities is a Banh Mi roll with laughing cow cheese. J-she couldn't even manage to get a takeaway cafe nom (hot coffee).
"C'mon how hard can it be?", I take control of the situation and head off towards the leering, desperate looking stall and cafe owners.
I get yelled at to sit down by an old stall holder so I ease the situation with a quick selfie on the phone, the old guy thinks this is pretty cool.
I order a takeaway coffee and the girl asks me to sit down, this is the real deal coffee but it takes 10 minutes to filter into the cup. They offer me a Banh Mi with laughing cow cheese. I take a look around the street and it truly appears this is the only takeaway food on offer, other than packets of chips, so I reluctantly get ripped off 20 thousand Dong for two bread rolls with a little smear of the laughing cow. The girl actually runs across the road to buy the bread , they don't even make them here normally but they're happy to scam a Westerner to make a few Dong !! Banh Mi rolls are only 1000 Dong each.
I indicate my haste as the train is due soon and the girl laughs out loud, "Always late, no hurry." she replies cackling her head off.
I'm sure as I left with my half finished coffee and crappy expensive rolls they we're the laughing at me, not the train. My efforts at finding decent food at a realistic price have failed.

J-she needs to go to the toilet which is in the building next door, one of those odd Viet things where they don't have a public toilet at the station, but gets harassed and physically man handled for 2000 Dong, she desperately pays up. On return I say she's been ripped off and charge off to show her how it's done. Around the corner I get screamed at for 2000 Dong. I refuse, scrunch up my bladder, and turn on my heel. My toilet efforts have also failed.
J-she stocks up at the railway snack bar just in case our laughing cow rolls are inedible. I wait for the train to turn up to use the onboard toilet, lucky for me and my bladder, it's actually on time.
We find our our carriage and the girls we came into town with wish us 'good luck' as they board their sleeper berth. They've travelled Viet rail before and have chosen to upgrade to a sleeper this time.., is there something we should know?
The carriage is full of locals, stinks of Durian, sweat and god knows what. The karaoke is blaring at 120 decibels. It's so humid the condensation is dripping back onto us off the ceiling, J-she is almost retching, I try to laugh it off, but it's pretty bad. Another notch of that stink and I'll be puking too. How bad can it be really, it's only 9 1/2 hours on a train....
I check the toilet and it's like some 3rd world prison box, it's so dirty I don't want to touch anything. J-she is going to struggle , cause she has to sit down on this poo and pee slimed bowl, which is already half blocked.

I take a stroll through other carriages, they don't smell aren't dripping with flu and the karaoke is turned off, it seems we got the bad carriage !! At least the seats are a bit comfy.
A few hours later we are slightly immune to the smell, have gone deaf to the bad Viet-pop on the TV, and actually relax a little.

The scenery is a mix of rural, heavy industry and small dirty looking towns, sometimes all three are sidled up against each other making for a very strange view indeed - rice paddies and vegetable gardens flanked by cement factories and brick works, underneath high tension power lines soaring off into the distance across a horizon dotted with pretty limestone outcrops. Very strange indeed. It's grey, cold and dirty outside..and inside, we don't think these carriages have been washed since they were put in service.

It's a pretty uneventful trip and doesn't hold the quaint romance I had imagined of a train ride through the Viet countryside. J-she comments late in the afternoon the most exciting event has been a baby buffalo running through the rice paddies after it's mother.
As darkness falls we are through Ninh Binh and approaching the outskirts of Hanoi.

Just out of Hanoi Crunk ! Bang! Crunk! and the train comes to a jarring halt.
A group of onlookers appears outside our carriage on the roadside nonchalantly pointing underneath our train and smoking cigarettes, the crowd grows quickly and they all stand around pointing. The train staff get off to check the commotion of our halted locomotion. We are all peering out our grimy windows to see whats happening right underneath us. The crowd point under the train and a rail staff member lifts a limp hand up from under the train.
They drag a bent moto out from under the train, lay some blankets and remove a very broken looking body. Noone even checks for a pulse.
They lay him on a blanket and cover him over, money is fluttered out the train window and from nowhere a huge bunch of incense is lit by the bodies head. The death rites are being performed right in front of our carriage on the roadside.
Huge amounts of Dong are thrown by passengers and bystanders, we don't know what the symbolism is but we throw money out too, just to be sure to ward off any evil spirits on our entrance to Hanoi.
Within minutes the commotion is over and the train continues, no police investigation, no forensics, no major hold up, just another typical day in Vietnam...
At the station we're scammed for 200,000 Dong to catch a taxi, we've been advised by the hotel it should be no more than 30,000. The relentless taxi scammers follow us to each taxi and declare the 'fixed' price to the next driver before we even get a chance to barter. So we walk.

We're closing on our hotel using Google maps and my phone goes flat, I have a reasonable bearing but we'll have to wing it from here in the dark, cold, busy streets of Hanoi. J-she is of course having a bit of a panic again, but somehow I manage to find our street and our hotel quite easily (phew, we didn't want to get scammed by a taxi driver not 500 metres from our hotel)
A lovely room and staff and soo warm inside. Hanoi, we've made it!!
We cross the street and the first street food we come to we ask for Pho. Worst Pho ever, but we have finally made it to Hanoi and it only took one sacrifice of a poor young guy and his moto !! Too easy.
We ask the reception staff where we might get a shot of whisky as their bar has just closed. He kindly offers to get me a bottle of vodka from the bar, I retort that I'm not a Russian, I just want one drink, and they piss themselves laughing. It’s time for bed in Hanoi !

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Andrea on

I'm not sure I could handle those smells either. Jen didn't you learn anything from travelling on the train in Thailand?

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