The second we stepped on our train from Danang to Hanoi, that’s exactly what she was hoping we would do for her. Just end it quickly.
You see, I had sold the ‘awesomeness of train travel’ pretty good to Mom and Dad. We had a 16-hour journey up to the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, and so I made sure that I emphasized the good. And it worked. Mom said she was actually looking forward to the trip. Comfy bunks. A good night sleep. A guy walking back and forth offering a vast array of incredible food. A toilet only 20m away. We will just play a few games of cards in our ‘room’, and we will be there in no time.
And then the train pulled in…
Oh shit – I might have oversold it a little.
In fairness to my parents, they have been absolute troopers on this trip. They haven’t said ‘no’ to anything, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. But I suppose that when two of your most recent accommodations looked like this:
Then you are bound to have a little bit of shock, when you see you have just been tricked into 16-hours of this…
It was pretty cramped quarters for the four of us, and with 2 big backpacks, a small backpack, a camera bag, one small suitcase, and two large suitcases to accompany us, well… we were pretty much limited to one person standing up in the berth at a time.
Trying to store all that luggage into the closet that was our bedroom was no easy task, but we managed to pull it off. And it was just about this time I noticed the circular yellow stains on our bedsheets.
If the train hadn’t started moving at that exact moment, I fear it would have lost a few passengers.
But in the end…you know what…it all worked out. Between our sleepsheets and sarongs, everyone was able to cover their bed enough to the point where they felt comfortable resting their body on it. And the sleep was actually pretty good.
The delectable food wasn’t quite working for us… and so we abstained from the fish porridge and dined on crackers and mini-Mars bars for the course of our journey. It wasn’t so bad.
Mom however, still failed to be amused by the toilet option she was presented with. The mothball smell was supposed to mask the odour of urine which was no doubt drying all over the floor…but I am not sure if that was really improving the situation at all. This was still fine for the guys. We just stayed away from fibre, to ensure there were no ‘number twos’. But I did feel for Shawna and Mom. Squatting in this environment, trying to keep your balance while the train rocked back and forth with no particular rhythm would have been a challenge I could do without.
But the view. The view was truly worth it. Dad I and were up early, and spent two hours standing outside our berth watching Northern Vietnam flow past us. The rural villagers working in their rice fields, the water buffalo grazing, the mountains of Vietnam in the background.
In reality there really is no substitute for train travel. We have travelled by train in France, Italy, Spain, Morocco, and now Vietnam. For me it is the only way to go, if you are looking for the most experiential way to travel in a country.
Mom and Dad might not completely agree with me, but they have promised me that they will never forget their time riding the rails in Vietnam!
Do you have an ‘ultimate train journey’? What’s your favourite mode of transportation when travelling overseas? Let us know in the comments below!
On another note, I know it’s a bit past Valentine’s Day, but just wanted to say thanks to Jessica at Gadling. We were honoured when she asked us to be a part of their V-Day article on travelling couples. Have a peek!!