Trip Start Jan 12, 2013
27Trip End Feb 14, 2013
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I just got into Hanoi four hours ago (6:20 a.m. local time, Feb. 22.)
There were only 3 soft-sleeper cars and 3 hard-sleeper (half-empty) cars from Saigon to Hanoi, and I got the party train--communist bosses running around in their underwear (discreet boxer shorts) and their twenty-year-old companions partying most of the first night and turning the A/C down to sub-freezing (the other two soft-sleeper cars were set to 22C, not 16C).
I think my luck will be better on the soft-sleeper to Lao Cai (the border with China), although the pricing was bad! I paid $40 for a "deluxe" sleeper "for foreigners" because it's all the train station had to offer. I'm assuming the agencies have bought up the "regular" sleepers that go for $25. Our guy at the Golden Time Hostel 2 (the young guy with reddish hair) suggested I go to the train station to get a better deal than the ticket he could get me through an agency; but when I told him the story, I said he should warn his hotel patrons that the hotel might get them cheaper tickets through an agent than they could get by buying at the train station. He replied that foreigners often don't believe him. I'll write a note for him and maybe it will help.
I'm leaving my bags at the Golden Time till 9:00 p.m. and take the train at 9:50 p.m. I tipped our friend 40,000 dong (the train station lockers cost 30,000 dong and only hold the luggage until 8 p.m. So it works out).
After breakfast (bun) and coffee, I've got 160,000 ($8) dong left for lunch and dinner. Tomorrow morning I'll be in HeKou, China, and I have plenty of Chinese money to eat!