21.05.2016 - 22.05.2016
After we returned from Ha Long Bay, we spent another afternoon in Hanoi. This time we went to see a 'water puppet show' which was quite strange! It's a Vietnam special: a puppet show performed over a tank of (shallow) water in the ground. It was all in Vietnamese so we didn't really understand a lot of it but it featured puppets of farmers, fish, chickens, a tiger, and so on. After that little bit of culture with a couple of the group we headed to a rooftop bar overlooking the lake and had a drink and wandered around a bit.
^ An example of a typical side street in Hanoi. It was hard to try and capture how busy/chaotic the city was in photos.
That evening we headed to the train station for an overnight trip to Huế. We weren't entirely sure what to expect. We ended up sharing a cabin with two girls from our group; our guide did some kind of swap so that some of the group got to share. When we later looked at our tickets we realised we were supposed to comprise 3 men and a Chinese person (complete with their dates of birth and passports). No wonder the guard gave us some funny looks! We were in the first class section of the train, which meant we got 4 bunk beds and a lockable door on our cabin. There was no other space inside so it was a matter of sitting on your neighbour's bed if you wanted to sit in the cabin. The next class down were six to a cabin (three vertical) which meant there was very little head room above each bunk. After that it turned to wooden benches either side of the central aisle (with no doors or separate cabins).
Our first class cabin was very basic but we did get a small bottle of water and a wet wipe each! We brought along our own food after the advice of our guide, though there was a small cart that went round selling bits and pieces (our guide warned us against it so we have no experience of that!). Tim went for a walk down the train to get a couple of drinks from the counter at the very back of the train, and reported seeing mice and people trying to stamp on them along the way. In our own cabin we found a few cockroaches running up and down the wall. This was disconcerting as they disappeared in to my bunk above and I had no way of finding them. We also discovered the train toilets were really very unpleasant. We had 13 hours to go and at some point we had to actually try and sleep. The two of us on the top bunks clambered up and tried not to think about cockroaches as we managed to drift off to sleep to the sound of the train rattling down the tracks.
The next morning we woke up early to the sound of traditional Vietnamese music blasting in to the cabin and announcements in Vietnamese. We discovered the speaker was just outside our cabin door and they were announcing one of the stops. It seemed that most of the interesting landscape had whizzed by during the dark night and we were passing flat fields and small towns without much of a view. We snacked on our pre-purchased pastries before we left the train at around 10.30am. We had arrived in Huế.