Sunday, 5 October 2008

Slow boat to China? Slow train to M'uonng Man, more like...

We left Saigon, slightly disappointed that Kim's wouldn't do us the shrimp curry we fell in love with for breakfast. If you're ever in Saigon, try it...nothing tastier has passed my lips this trip. It was a relief to escape the madeness, as we boarded a 50s Soviet-looking train. I was biting my lip trying not to laugh at the music being piped through...it was obviously on a very old tape, which had been stretched beyond limits over the years. I wish I'd have been able to record it...it was hilarious.

The train moves slowly...it's a 70km trip to the second stop out of Saigon, and it takes an unbelievable 4hrs. We picked up speed as we exited the city limits, the crawl understandable as the huts and lean-to dwellings were literally feet from the track in places. I waved at a gap-toothed old man in a tin bath as we picked up speed eventually, and he raised his scrubbing brush in salute and grinned.

The scenery past the city limits seared my retinas. Verdant banks of lush vegetation flashed past my eyes in the foreground, mountains and hills in various tones of grey moving more sedately beyond. This was just how I imagined Vietnam. The Colonel beamed, face glued to window like a child as we snaked through valley after valley...each vista more incredible than the next. Hills shrouded in tendrils of mist, the sun streaming through trees which stroked the carriages as they passed by. Tuco was becoming more pantomime villian (he's behind me?) and less thriller spectre by the moment. Although I was half expecting him to appear above the rim of the train window, hunting knife clentched between bad teeth, at any moment.

It's amusing watching The Colonel's reactions. I mean, I'm no Phileas Fogg, but he's only been to Amsterdam, Dublin and France as a child. So it's actually quite rewarding to see him over-excited about things. He managed to refrain from jumping up and down on the seats on the train, though. Which was nice.

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