Friday, July 4, 2014

Night Train from Hanoi to Lao Cai

17 May 2014 (Saturday Night)

NTHA arrived at about 7:30 p.m., bringing my train tickets. She brought me to Gate B of Hanoi train station immediately. I asked her to have dinner but she declined. As it was still early, I asked her to have a drink at a cafe outside the train station before leaving.

I gave NTHA VND1,360,000 for the return tickets which she had paid for me. Thanks to her, I could get the tickets and saved myself some money. I asked NTHA how she was able to get the tickets. She told me she could not get the tickets through the normal means and she was only able to get them, both for the lower berths because she knew someone. Many, many thanks, NTHA. I owe you. She had also booked a room for me at Pumpkin Hotel in Sapa. Thanks again for taking so much trouble to assist me with the tickets, hotels and all the other little things. I am not sure how I would be able to repay you.

After the drink, she sent me to the train station itself and saw me off, making sure everything was okay.

I have been to a few train stations and I had imagined the train station in a large city like Hanoi to be big, crowded and complicated. I never realised that the waiting room could be so simple. It was just a small rectangular building. Enter from the front and exit at the back to where the trains were parked, though there were ticket inspectors at the exit door to ensure that only legitimate passengers passed through.

I was the first to be in the cabin. Shortly before the train left, I was joined by three youngsters, a young man accompanied by his girl friend and his younger sister. They were exuberant and playful. We soon got to talking to each other. They were from the border town of Lang Son. The young man studied in Kunming and the sister was learning Chinese and English. Although the siblings looked ethnic Chinese, they claimed to be Vietnamese ethnically.

Later, the young man left. After coming back, he started packing up with the two girls. I wondered why until he explained that he had found a vacant cabin and they did not want to disturb me. However, when I was sleeping, I was joined by some unknown passengers, one of whom was a crew of the train simply because I left the cabin unlocked.

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