Saturday, October 6, 2007

Train to Da Nang.

Ok, it's been a few days since our last update, but here is the update that should have followed our previous post.

Ah, to look forward to an 16 hour train ride instead of a quick and easy flight. Well, at least this way we know that we won’t be turned around if the storm is still bad, and in the morning before we arrive at 11:30 we will get a chance to see some of the countryside.

Sounds nice and quaint and hopefully is something that we will thoroughly enjoy. The room is a bit of a shock when we see it; four beds in a 6’x7’ room, prisoners have it better then this. Seriously. And there are all these Vietnamese that keep walking up and down the hallway peering into every room in a way that gives you an uneasy feeling. We talk to a couple from Lisbon, Portugal down just a few rooms from us and we decide that someone will always need to keep watch during the night, especially when groups travel to the bar or dining car.

But they do actually go through the train before they leave and get the riffraff off, and one does travel in peace with few worries. We end up sharing a room with a couple from Australia, and once settled we head down to said dining car. We also brought some French Baguettes and a bottle of wine to the dining car, which seemed to bother them slightly. When we offered to buy some pho or some beers to make the woman waiting on our table absolutely refused to sell anything to us.

So around 21:00 we settle into bed and hope to get a fairly good nights’ sleep, the train rocks and skips and abruptly slows a lot more then one would expect, but eventually we drift of to sleep. I awake around 03:00 and notice that we are not moving, and awaking again an hour later we still aren’t moving. Arise around 05:30 with the sun as the shades don’t shade much, and start to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Most people on the train are going to Hue which arrives at 08:30, we and a few other couples are going to De Nang, getting in at 11:30. The sightseeing is amazing, everywhere is flooding and wind damage from the typhoon that went through in the night. People are all out moving tree limbs and cleaning. We start to see where they are hacking fallen branches just to clear the tracks, and at one point we cross as small causeway that you can tell has been quickly reinforced to cope with the flood waters. Yes, that felt safe.

But again, the sights are breathtaking and it is nice to see the countryside. So 08:30 comes and goes without stopping at Hue and we begin to wonder how much further. Apparently none of the workers on the train speak English (we decide that it is because the train is still government run) and it is hard to figure out exactly where we are en-route to our destination. All we know is that we are 3 hours past Hue, and then another 40+ minutes in a car from Da Nang to Hoi An.

The train finally pulls into Hue at 14:00, just a little off schedule. Apparently the rumor is that they stopped to let the storm go through and, judging by the sights, we figure that was a good thing.

After Hue, the skies really open up. And by that I mean blue skies, breathtaking, and now the train is running along the coast. Wow, just amazing, and that this point we are thinking the train was worth it.

Yes, then we get into Da Nang early, considering, at only 16:00. This put us into Hoi An just after 17:00, plenty of time to sight see this evening before we head of to see My Son tomorrow….

And, although we feel bad that we are now a few days behind, we will post stories from each day individually so that they don't overwhelm....
- Few comments left out by Mark
As Mark stated in the earlier post, the bar car woman was not impressed us or should I say Mark,for bringing in wine, so the next day when we showed up, she still wasn't impressed. We had a couple of beers and met fellow travelers from Australia, also sitting and enjoying the sites of Vietnam, when the same lady came over and tried to shoo us out of the bar car. We ordered lunch and shortly thereafter she attempted to get rid of us again. Like any good tourist, we played dumb. This was lunch time for the crew, and they did not want anyone besides the workers to be in the car, even though the signs state that lunch was from 11:30 until 2pm. Reminds me of East Germany all over again. A man than comes over to the Aussies and instructs them to sit with us. With an empty table, the crew place food on the table as a deterrent for any future sales. Well, it worked. A young couple came in and then realized all tables were occupied and immediately went back to their car. We were the only paying people in the bar car.
As we were in the dining car, our roommate came over explaining that he awoke to find the cabin steward, apparently hungry, trying to get into our cashews that we purchased prior to our trip. She was disappointed to find out that we had not opened the jar of cashews yet, looked at our roommate, and left. I had him point out which cabin steward it was, and left it with her when we arrived in De Nang. I had a new best friend.
Lastly, Mark mentioned earlier that our cabins were quite small, and they certainly were. The cabins had four bunks and a little table, and a garbage can that I assume was white at one time. It was quite small for four people but when we had our fifth guest, I drew the line, granted he was small, but still a mouse is still a mouse. He stayed with us for a short time, before the odor of lunch lured him away, never to be seen again.
Aside from that, we were happy that we ended up taking the train. We were able to enjoy the scenery, and meet some wonderful people from around the world. Definitely recommend it to anyone thinking of going to Vietnam.

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