I knew this was going to be a long leg, so I chose to splurge on first glass tickets. What happened on departure I did not see coming, though.
The Reunification Express is the train route that connects Vietnam from Sapa in the north, to Saigon in the south. When flying wherever you miss a lot of the country while traveling, and I heard only great things about the route, so I decided to go by train from Danang, which is in the middle of Vietnam, to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh city.
You can choose between soft 4 bed sleeper cart, hard 6 bed sleeper cart, soft upright seats, and hard seats. Since this was an overnight train, I chose the soft 4 bed sleeper for most comfort, I also chose to book it through Violette, who offers extra luxury service in addition, so that I wold be certain that the 17 hours in a train would be as comfortable as possible.
Upon departure I was ready, I had bought plenty of food or the trip as I doubted there were any vegetarian options on the train. About 40 minutes late, the train rolls into the platform, and that’s when I realized something was up.
I had trouble finding my cart as it wasn’t marked as it said it would be on my Violette ticket. The train staff just looked at me confused when I showed them my ticket, and as everyone else had gotten on and the train was blowing it’s horns, I was afraid I wouldn’t get on. Then comes this angry looking man in a railway uniform and takes my ticket out of my hands, and starts walking off. I follow, he’s not saying one word in English, I have no idea what’s going on. He discusses with the ticket lady, and then they gesticulate for me to board the train, which by now had started rolling. What else was I supposed to do?
Finally on the train, this same angry looking man, from now on known as Mr. Angry, points for me to follow him, but is not interested in actually waiting for me as I try to keep up with my 20kg backpack, which by the way was way to wide for the narrow hallway on the train. Finally Mr. Angry points for me to sit in a cart, which is of the same kind I had booked, so I thought at least that’s settled. Meanwhile he’s calling Violette, and all I hear is alot of discussion in Vietnamese. I start to pack out and make my bed while he’s making several different calls, sitting in my cart, still angry looking. And he watches me as I does this, not saying anything to stop me. After about 15 minutes when I’m all packed out, Mr. Angry hangs up and says. “Come”, and gesticulates for me to bring my stuff. So this asshole had been watching me for 15 minutes getting settled in without stopping me, and now tells me to hurry and follow him with my stuff. I hated him by now.
Mr. Angry then points me into another room where there was an angry looking lady as well, this was allso a soft 4 bed sleeper cart but without the extra service soI thought “fine, I just wanna relax and settle in for my trip now”. Then he calls the booking company I used and hand his phone to me, and a booking consultant tells me in English that Violette had booked me for the wrong date, and they didn’t have any available soft sleepers for this train, but that they could offer me a bed in a hard 6 bed sleeper cart, which is in no way larger than the 4 bed carts, and far dirtier. So once again I was in the wrong cart, and was asked by Mr. Angry to gather my stuff and follow him once again.
I ended up in an even smaller, hard (as in almost laying on hardwood) 3 bed sleeper cart shared with a Vietnamese family of four sharing two of the beds. I got the third, top bed to my self. So we were 5 people in about four square meters for 17 hours, with complimental cockroaches in the cracks of the room. And the window was so dirty I had no view. No food carts ever came to us at “lower class” tickets, so I’m glad I stocked up on food before departure.
But the family I was roomies with were very friendly, we could not understand each other, but alot can be said with smiles and body language. I also got to finish my book and start another, and the view could be enjoyed from out in the hallway. At least until sundown. Every now and then Mr. Angry passed by, looking at me angrily.
So all in all it ended up OK, and Violette will refund my ticket. I just need to spend the rest of the day recovering from the mostly sleepless night. It’s days like this I realize that I’m not in my twenties any more!
I have chosen to follow my gut feelings, so I’ve changed my flight tickets. I’ll be gong back to Tonsai the day after tomorrow. It feels right, rounding up my trip where I’ve had the most fun.
Peace! – Charlotte