25.10.2010 - 26.10.2010 27 °C
Last day in Hanoi but not without one more sip on a fruit shake before hitting the overnight sleeper. This time we try the train for this 12+ hour trip onto Hue. Due to depart at 7pm it has been rescheduled to 11pm, so after dinner we camp out at the hotel updating the blog, browsing the world wide web and waiting for the time to go by. A little kerfuffle with taxi driver and we are at the station, Ga Hanoi. As it is the only train on platform everyone is headed to it. We get to our carriage and on to our cabin, a 4 berth sleeper which we will be sharing with a young back packing couple from England. Shortly after 11 the train is on the way and we prepare ourselves for the long journey, which will be interrupted with a slight detour due to the floods in central Vietnam. One by one we all fall asleep in the cabin, first those of us who can’t read and then all those others with book in hand. The trains are old and slow but the beds are comfortable and we all sleep well despite being jolted roughly after every stop. It is around 4.30 am, a loud knock on the door and the blaring music wakes us all up, it is time to transfer onto the buses that will take us south beyond the flooded areas to the other train to complete our journey. It’s dark and we have no clue where we are; finally after about 40 minutes the ‘rail replacement’ buses show up and aboard we go. These are no sleeper VIP buses and we are a bit crammed but we get on our way, with the usual honking and a few near misses. It is not until after 8 am that we arrive to the replacement train heading south, we are all very tired and we try to figure out the berth arrangement. This train looks slightly more run down than the previous one, yet it does not deter us from falling asleep soon after we get under way. The trip carries on for hours and after 14 hours of travelling, in which we cover a distance of about 600 kms, we arrive in Hue just after 2pm. The usual haggling for a ride into town from the train station, we end up sharing with a few other travellers to reduce the costs. Straight to our hotel, a real bargain, $10 a night for a comfortable double room; yet the only drawback is that the hotel owner seems a bit too keen in selling to us a few other tours, recommend restaurants etc. As it is late and we have had a very long day, we decide to take a shower, go for a meal, a very late late breakfast and hire some bicycles to go about town to a very famous pagoda. This Buddhist temple houses the Aston martin in which Thich Quang Duc was driven to his self-immolation in Saigon in 1963, as protest towards the anti-Buddhist regime governing Vietnam at the time. In other words if you’re familiar with Rage Against the Machine’s first album cover you will know what this is about. Hue’s other highlight is the ancient citadel, a Unesco site, which we decide we can do next day early in the morning with enough time to catch the afternoon bus heading south. And so we do, an early start, breakfast, bikes and off to visit the ancient Vietnam Capital, once home to the Nguyen Dynasty. We spent a good two hours walking around the few remaining buildings (although good work is being put into rebuilding most of this complex with some Korean money) to then head back and catch yet another bus!