What else would I have titled my first post in Vietnam? Even if it is about the overnight journey here.
It was one of the most fun filled journeys I’ve had by train in the last two months. Train travel is a phenomenal way to travel.
A quick Metro ride to Nanning Railway Station and I joined a queue to enter the building.
Security did not actually seem very interested in checking anyone’s identity cards, but this was only the first hurdle of inspection.
Next hoop, the baggage check and final leg the actual ticket and passport check. All through smoothly.
I checked the Information Board… Waiting Room Two, and headed off to said Waiting Room. Only… my train wasn’t among those listed.
Hmm. I double checked the main board. It definitely had the number ‘2’ but after it was an arrow pointing to the top left with a number ‘3’ after it.
It couldn’t do any harm to go up the escalator and check. Sure enough, I needed to be in Waiting Room Three.
It is unclear why all of the trains’ Waiting Rooms were listed as either ‘1’ or ‘2’ first followed by either ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ or ‘4’.
Just one if those curve balls thrown from time to time to keep the traveller on their toes.
Boarding was called and everyone hurried through to the platform.
We weren’t boarding one of the nice high speed trains for this journey – it was back to the Trans Siberian style ones… but as we’ve discussed: that is not a hardship…
… though I wasn’t sure about the sandals.
I found I was sharing a cabin with Corrine and Maxim from Paris and nextdoor were Julie and Frederika from Denmark.
Julie and Frederika told us they are taking a gap year before going to university while Corrine and Maxim have quit their jobs to travel… for who knows how long.
When our fourth cabin mate made it clear he was going to sleep, we moved next door to play card games.
An evening of greater deceit, double-bluff, misdirection, treachery and downright skullduggery has not been seen.
I haven’t seen such Machiavellian behaviour since “Blackadder Goes Forth”.
At 10.20pm we arrived at the border with Vietnam. As when arriving into China, it was a case of “Everybody off!”
We all shuffled into the station with our luggage for the scanning and the paperwork. This time we were allowed back on the train to spend the hour before we departed rather than sitting in the station.
It was unclear whether the Vietnamese border staff would board the train at this point or whether we would move to a different station and repeat the same process.
We found out one hour later that it was a similar process to the Chinese border procedures.
As we changed money here, we also became instant millionaires.
Back on the train and we all tried to get a few hours sleep before reaching Hanoi at 5.30am.
Stumbling out, somewhat bleary-eyed we left the station, Gia Lam rather than the main Hanoi Station. Instantly we had offers of taxi rides but a polite “no thank you” stopped further suggestions.
All five of us were staying in the same area so we collectively headed to the bus station.
Even before 6am, the streets were busy with people going about their business and the bus station was lively.
A member of staff pointed us to a bus. Once there, I showed the address of my hostel. The driver conferred with the passengers and waved us on.
After approximately twenty minutes just as the Maps.Me phone app indicated that we should probably get off, the conductor came to us and told us we needed the next stop, featuring towards the footbridge we needed to cross the dual carriageway.
We set off. Frederika and Julie peeled off from our group first to head to their accommodation. Corrine, Maxim and I walked together for a few more streets and then there was one.
I checked in and had a traditional Vietnames breakfast of cornflakes.
It has been eight weeks since I last ate any.
*Featured Photo: The street outside my hostel.