Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Adventures in train travel

Took the night train back from Sapa to Hanoi last night and was so grateful to have kept my hotel room here while I was gone. While other people were staggering around tired and grimy waiting to be able to check-in somewhere, I went straight to my room where all my stuff was intact, opened a cold diet coke and drew a bath. Ahhh...

This relief was particularly sweet considering the adventure of the train. In Sapa I got on the train and claimed my expensive reserved sleeper berth, this time one of the lower ones, and waited to see who else would be sharing the compartment, expecting a similar group to the genial Finns and the woman from Singapore. This was not to be. First, a young (Vietnamese, I think) couple comes in and perches on the other lower bunk. They stow some luggage and then leave. Then only he comes back, followed by two grinning men in matching tan shirts and two tarted-up, gum-smacking, giggling apparent prostitutes -- oops, I mean sex workers. I'm completely claiming my space and lying down on my bed, but the men decide to sit on it anyway so they can face the girls and have a chat. I'm having none of this, and make an unmistakable "get off" gesture, which just makes them move to the opposite bunk, so that now four people are staring at me like I'm crashing the party. I'm thinking, yes, I am well aware of the legendary and often heroic patience and forbearance of the Vietnamese people, but y'all ain't winning this one. Eventually the tan-shirt dudes leave, and the girls ratchet-up the gum smacking and cell-phone yacking while I turn my back and pretend to try to sleep. After a while they start playing a game by clapping suddenly and giggling to see if I'm still awake, but I am in no mood to be mean-girled by a couple of seat-scamming sex workers. They're still sitting up and making a racket when it seems the right time to lock the compartment door for the night, which just escalates the battle, of course. I lock. One grabs my arm and shakes her head to say, no lock. I nod, point to my chest, glare, and lock. This happens a few more times. Then there comes a loud knock on the door and one of the girls opens it. Here we go, I think. But, no, it's the conductor. He looks at the two of them in one berth, says something, points, looks at their ticket (?), then just laughs and shuts the door. Thanks a heap. But I lock the door after him and put on the chain so that even he can't get in, flash another dirty look, turn on my side, wrap my arm around my bag, and actually go to sleep. Victorious.


  1. That is SOOOO insane! You handeled yours Dr! Good Job, oh, and safe trip! T. Reed

  2. What a story! So funny, elisabeth.