November 15th, 2006 – by: mdcoffey129
first sight of the cabin. Doesn't look too bad does it? Depends on who's sharing it with you!
The 15th started off perfectly. We spent the morning on a 6 hour cruise in Halong Bay which is in the Gulf of Tonkin in the South China Sea. We then took a coach back to Hanoi for dinner and eventually on to the railway station to board the overnight train. Although it goes to Ho Chi Minh City we were getting off at Hue. We were with an organised group of 16 people. 4 couples, 4 single females and 4 single males. I didn't have any input into the sleeping arrangements (4 to a cabin) but whoever did (and I know where you live Simon) clearly had it in for me and Debbie (my wife).
That's me. I grabbed the top bunk opposite the big guy from Manchester.
First up was a rather portly chap from Manchester, England who photographed anything that moved, was never seen without his deerstalker hat and had only brought one shirt and one pair of shorts with him for the whole 4 week trip in SE Asia. So, 3 of 4 berths filled. Next up, the occupant of berth 4, a genial Irish man from Co Kerry who had been struggling for the last few days with a very heavy cold and had decided to sweat it out by wearing a very heavy woollen pullover. He didn't bother with photos at all, "all of my memories are up here" he said pointing to his head.
I had a sneaky suspicion that these 2 might have a snoring problem which, coupled with my own snoring, meant Debbie was in for a sleepless night. I reckoned that if we could get off to sleep first we might just get away with it.
We've all moved in and there's not a lot of room. The 2 lads were snoring by now, you can just make out the heap of Kerryman in the bottom right bunk.
Alas, it wasn't to be. Both of them were asleep before their heads hit the pillow and what a racket they made. I reckon that between them they covered the entire brass section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the only difference being that someone had rolled up Manchester man's socks and stuck them in the end of his trumpet, trombone etc.
In fact it only served to encourage te rest of our group from adjacent carriages to come and have a look at what the racket was and even photograph the Irish fella as he was asleep fully clothed, including the sweater (quite literally a sweater at this stage).
At least I got to sleep eventually but Debbie struggled and spent most of the night shouting at our companions to shut up. 6.30 am and we're woken with the sound of some Vietnamese military music being blasted into our carriage which didn't seem to bother the Kerryman who was still snoring away.
'derailment'. Not as serious as you'd imagine.
We were given dried noodles and some hot water for breakfast and sat bemoaning our misfortune at drawing the short straw with regard to our sleeping partners. 9am and a sudden jolt. We're informed that the train has derailed, apparently a 'bogey' has snapped after the train ran over something on the track. We're informed that we're not going anywhere and we're still an hour away from Hue. So we wait and wait and listen to the snoring and more people come and photograph and video the snoring Irishman. Midday and we're on the move, not the train, just us being moved from our carriage, 8, down to carriage 1. The rumour is that they are going to fill up carriage 1 and disconnect it from the rest and leave the others stranded in the middle of nowhere. Apparently we're the lucky ones because we're with an organised group and our guide/translator has pulled a few strings.
This is the little vilage where we ended up.
The train starts up and they manage to make it as far as a very small station, still in the middle of nowhere, where the villagers don't appear to have seen Westerners before. They couldn't believe their luck though as we descended on their little shop and proceeded to buy anything that was drinkable. After a few hours the coach that was due to collect us at Hue station found it's way to us and delivered us to our hotel in Hue at 6.30pm, 8 and a half hours late. Apparently the other carriages didn't get recovered until the following day and the unfortunates that we left behind spent 18 and a half hours stranded.
I guess this highlights the advantages of going with an organised group. I must also add that the locals at the village we stopped at were superb and couldn't do enough for us.