I arrived at the train station via a 1960’s vintage Cycle, well maybe the word vintage is a little to strong of a word and I should have used run down or old. It was about 10:00 when I arrived for the 11:00 train. Attempted to confirm that I really had the correct place, ticket and time without any luck, but I could see train tracks so must be close. It was 10:30 when a large door was opened and a “conductor” confirmed I was in the correct place and had the right train.
I was off to find car #8 and spot #19 that turned out to be a top bunk of a 2 bunk cabin with no lights or air conditioning. I stashed my suitcase and locked it to a bar with my backpack in a top shelf next to my bed. I was then joined by a Danish man and a Vietnamese woman both about my age and had the bunks on the other side of my cabin. They found the light switch but had no success with the AC. – The car was simply old and used did I say old and used. It reminded me of the beds at boy scout camp. again old used and not ideal for actual sleeping. Fortunately I had been up since 5:00AM and had a beer or two so falling asleep was not an issue, I was out before I the train started to move with my cash passport etc. tucked away on my body. Ok so falling asleep was simple staying that way was not. The train was so damn loud, hot and the last of our cabin passengers made an ungraceful entrance before hitting the bottom bunk below me. Next was the woman having a nightmare and yelling in her sleep, the Danish man talking, light on and off, more talking etc…
At one point I woke up to find the door to the cabin lock and the Danish man jumping up flipping the lights on and to talk to me – apparently the screaming earlier and all the talking was from the Vietnam man below me trying to take the woman’s cash and a little more if you get my drift! We were now down to 3 in our cabin.
I had set my iPod to wake me at 5:00AM for a 5:35AM arrival. Unlocked my things and went to the hallway to watch out the window. Like a dog in a car, I had my head halfway out he window letting the cool air do it magic in waking me up. It was that moment when it was no longer night and the day had not yet begun. The almost full moon was setting and casting a reflective glow over the rice fields and rolling mountain framed everything. Through the haze and mist you could feel the lush green of the trees and the ever so brilliant reflection off the rice paddies as then moon set, it was a magical moment to quote Mr. Kevin Been — it was that moment, when I was drunk on what I will remember as the real Vietnam, that I almost lost my head when the train approached a small narrow bridge!