Overnight train to Hue
6 June 2012
Okay, so I spoke too soon about the quality of the accommodation.
The Overnight train from Hanoi to Saigon, which we took us a far as Hue, brought us back to earth. We were in the first class sleeper cabins. 4 bunks per room, with barely enough room for a couple of people standing between, and no lounge car, so we were stuck in the cabins for the full 13 hours. The train departed at 7pm and arrived around 8.30 the following morning.
We weren’t able to get cabins all together, so some of us had to share with others. Unfortunately in my four bed cabin there was me, the tour leader, plus two Vietnamese women… and their three little girls. It was a little crowded. And children being children it was extremely noisy! We were on the top bunks, and thankfully the tour leader swapped bunks with me as the heat was making me feel ill. Eventually the kids stopped screaming and we all tried to sleep. We were given a sheet, a duvet and a pillow. Everything smelled faintly of urine.
Apparently first class sleepers have softer mattresses than the second class ones, well I’d hate to try second class – these mattresses were solid as concrete! And the jerking of the train that would thump you against the wall didn’t help. And to top it all off the train only had squat toilets with urine all over the floor, it was pretty disgusting. So I hunkered down with my Kindle and tried to tune out till we arrived.
After sleeping off the train ride in the next hotel till mid afternoon, we went out for dinner in Hue at the home of a local Vietnamese family. Four generations of the family live in three houses right next to each other. We were greeted by the grandmother of the family who didn’t speak a word of English. She started preparing a dish of betel nut, what I understand is now an illegal, or at least frowned upon, narcotic. Our tour leader tried one to show us, and his facial expression was enough that none of us dared follow his example. The poor guy spent the next half hour getting the taste out of his mouth.
|Betel nut dish.|
|The shrine to the Goddess of Mercy at the entrance to the house.|
In comparison, our dinner was fabulous! As seems to be the custom here there were many small dishes prepared and brought out to us through the evening. First course was pumpkin soup with peanuts and spices. It tasted more like a sweet satay sauce, but was very good, and just what I needed as I’d slept through lunch. Following the soup there were a number of other dishes including caramelised pork, jackfruit salad, rice. All followed by another soup to help remove the last grains of rice from our bowls - which is apparently an insult.
|Jackfruit growing on a tree.|