SAPA TO HANOI:

Trains, buses, confusion, and mud

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s I mentioned in my last post, the journey from Sapa to Hanoi was interesting, to say the least, and deserves a post all of its own…..

After a nice few days in and around Sapa, we headed back to Lao Cai to catch what we thought was going to be the 9:05 sleeper train to Hanoi. We arrived at 6:30, thinking we would have a quick dinner before boarding the train. On arrival we were informed that our train had been rescheduled, to now leave at 9:40, so we had a slow dinner, and settled in to wait. At about 9:30 we discovered that there had been a landslide down the track, and that we would now be leaving at 11pm. Ag least we were able to board the train and settle the kids in to sleep. 

We drove for about an hour and a half, through some sketchy, pot hole filled roads, then some larger, slightly less pot hole filled highways, taking a couple of wrong turns along the way, and eventually pulled up in a patch of mud near a train track in a town I’m going to call Phuc Dat.

11pm we finally got rolling. Unfortunately the slide hadn’t been cleared, so at 1am we were woken up and herded off the train, to climb aboard mini buses to get us around the problem area. Arch woke well, but Stevie lost the plot, wailing “my bed, my bed”, and trying to throw herself from Kate’s arms back into bed. 

The train company, King Express, had managed to arrange about a dozen buses, not quite enough for everyone on the train, but somehow managed to squeeze everyone in. Kate and Stevie ended up in the front seat, with a mountain of backpacks and suitcases piled precariously behind them, and I had a little fold out half seat. We set off again, and the rain started pretty much immediately, at times absolutely pelting down. 

“MY BED.”

Stevie did not respond well to a 1am wakeup call

IN HIS STRIDE.

Uncharacteristically, Arch woke well, and was fantastic throughout the whole episode

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e drove for about an hour and a half, through some sketchy, pot hole filled roads, then some larger, slightly less pot hole filled highways, taking a couple of wrong turns along the way, and eventually pulled up in a patch of mud near a train track in a town I’m going to call Phuc Dat. Unfortunately there was no train to meet us, and our driver was an expert at the Vietnamese art of not giving us any information or directions. We sat in the bus for an hour or so, then a train pulled up alongside. A bunch of people got off so, assuming wrongly that we would be getting on, we started piling out of the buses. The train guard started yelling at us “no, no”, and gesturing for us to get back into the bus. After a while the train left, and we

 spent another half hour waiting, in a void of information. At this stage Kate leaned out the window and whispered to me “This feels like a people smuggling operation”. At about 3am I asked the driver what time the train was coming, using Google translator, as he didn’t speak English, and offered him my phone to type the answer. He declined, and used the torch on his own phone to search for a stone with which to scratch 3:30 onto the concrete. Eventually we got back in the bus, and reversed about 200m down the road to the train station, where our train was waiting for us. As we got out of the bus, Stevie a nappy fell off, and while searching the bag for another, I discovered that a banana was squished through the bag, all over everything. 

A MOUNTAIN OF BAGS.

Kate and Stevie ended up in the front seat, with a huge pile of backpacks stacked prcariously behind them

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e waited in the station for a while, then were allowed to board the train. When we got to our cabin, the entire room was dripping wet, and there were only two beds made up, the top bunks were folded away. We folded the bunks down, only to find that they didn’t have mattresses. We then realised that the mattresses had been doubled up on the bottom bunks, which made sense, given how hard they are. After transferring them to the bunks, we realised that there was not enough bedding, we were missing a duvet a a pillow. Kate asked the guard about it, and he apologetically brought them back to the cabin from wherever he had been using them. I made up the bed and lay down, ignoring the smell of alcohol in the pillow, and tried to sleep. 

It was a bumpy ride home, through a couple of thunderstorms, but the kids slept well, until about 8, when we were woken by the guard, saying we were nearly in Hanoi. We arrived, tired and bedraggled, at about 9, and made our way by cab to the homestay where we had left some of our luggage while we went to Sapa. After heading out for a breakfast of Pho and lots of coffee, we were able to check in to our new homestay, and spent most of the day in bed, until we had to head out to Tay Ho for Archie’s last round of needles following the monkey bite incident. 

We’re now wearily relaxing in Hanoi, until tomorrow, when we head off to Hoi An for a week, the last part of the journey before we head home to Kiama Downs. Check back soon for tales from the ancient capital of Vietnam…..

THE LAST 20 MINUTES

The last 20 minutes into Hanoi took about an hour, but we got there eventually, tired and bedraggled