A Crunchy Train Ride to Hanoi

Picture of iPad.

Katie photographs the scenery.

February 27, 2015
Day 225

We had tickets for an overnight train from Da Nang to Hanoi, Vietnam. But first, we had to get from our hotel to the train station. We didn't want to deal with the racist, thieving bus attendants who charge foreigners double what the locals pay, so we had our sleazy hotel owner arrange for a taxi to pick us up at 11am. At 10:50, the same sleazy hotel owner asked us what we were planning to do today.

“We're going to Da Nang, remember?” I asked.

“You should've told me,” he replied. “I could get you a taxi.”

“We did tell you! And you already set up a taxi for us, didn't you?” He had done nothing but smoke cigarettes, play games on his iPad and flirt with his female customers since we had arrived. How could he have forgotten our taxi? Now I worried that there wouldn't be a taxi and we'd miss our train. I felt like a colossal dumb-ass for trusting this guy.

But then he thought about it for a few seconds and said, “Oh, that's right. Taxi. Now I remember.”

The taxi actually showed up on time, so our sleazy hotel owner got his commission. On our way out the door, he gave me a snaggletoothed grin and said, “You'll give us a five-star review on Trip Advisor, right?”

Not quite, but thanks for trying. At least we made it to the train station early enough to grab lunch, where we filmed a short video.

Picture of train.

The train to Hanoi.

The train was nearly empty, and it left an hour late. Most of the carriages were sleepers, though there were also a couple of hard-seat cars and a luxurious dining car. We spent most of the afternoon watching the ocean-side scenery, including rice fields at the foot of emerald mountains, cemeteries, wooden houses and tropical vegetation. We also passed through several towns and cities. Before coming here, it was hard to imagine what 90 million people, packed into a country twice the size of Wisconsin, might look like. But after seeing city after huge city, I was beginning to understand.

As darkness set in and we made our 15th unexpected stop, several small critters scurried across the walls of our cabin. We took off our sandals for a bit of “housekeeping,” then we shot another video.

And then things started to get weird...

When you're stranded in a cramped cabin for more than a day cockroaches are running across your body as you try to sleep, your mind can reach all sorts of epiphanies.

More photos from the train ride

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