Friday, 24 October 2008

Night train to Sa Pa

Train travel is the way to do Vietnam, bar the trusty scooter. They're slow, but you get to see lots of beautiful scenery. IF you travel during daylight hours, that is. Night trains are a different story. Myself and The Jock booked one to Lao Cai in the North, near the border with China. We bade farewell to The Colonel, and he went off into the humid Hanoi evening, fag in mouth and beer in hand. He later got into trouble with a couple of cheeky young ladies, one of whom nicked his phone; I've been forbidden to give further details.

Now, back to the train. We got a 'hard sleeper', which is basically a cabin with 6 bunks...all of which have about as much leg/ headroom as a Messerschmidt bubble car. And are probably stuffier. We had the top bunks, which involve climbing into a cramped space whilst attempting to injure yourself with every protruding item on the way up. These Orientals certainly understand torture.

As for sleeping? Forget it. The Jock sleeps soundly enough. The twat. But for me, with the train rattling and rolling through the hills, bumping along over outdated points and rails...it's a living nightmare. Eyemask on, earplugs in...still no good. I'd liken it to being rolled around in a darkened barrel, while someone gleefully smashes a biscuit tin full of nails with a tambourine. Not the best, you can imagine.

So, morning breaks after the best sleep ever. Not. We are treated to the stretched-cassette caterwauling local music as the announcer welcomes us to Lao Cai. I wish I'd had my camera out as we looked out of the corridor windows. The rolling hills and streams. Lean-to houses with their inhabitants stoking the early morning fire. Peasants cajoling water buffalo along dusty roads with their sticks of willow. The best moment being the schoolkids careering down the rocky path alongside the train, shouting and waving "Hallo, halloooo!". It's good to be alive. And I've never felt more so.

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