27 November 2008

Sapa to Hanoi

The trip back to Hanoi was even longer than the trip there . . . a mere thirteen and a half hours door to door.

The bus driver from Sapa to the train station in Lao Cai was considerably better than the one there, as he only tried to kill us three times. Twice by nearly plowing into herds of water buffalo that had wondered into the road, and once by repeatedly trying to overtake a truck through a series of blind hairpin bends! Even the locals looked relived when we made it to the train station in one piece! And of course, because this time the route was all down hill the journey was taken at a considerably higher speed than previously. That combined with the twistyness of the roads led to one poor local women heaving her breakfast back up. It's a good job she was sat by the window because the driver didn't offer to stop or even slow down.

This time we caught the morning train at half past nine which allowed us to see some of the beautiful scenery we had missed on the way there on the sleeper. The scenery was great, rugged mountains in the background with rice paddies and the Red River in the foreground. It's always really interesting traveling by train abroad and seeing how different it is to back home. Doing a bit of people watching and trying to work out whats going on. It always seems more buzzy what with the vendors working their way up and down the train. Selling all sorts of stuff from crisps and chocolate to a go on a pipe! I can't remember the last time you could buy a new watch or a four inch hunting knife on a British Rail train.

The people here always seem far more friendly than the average train traveler back home. If you find yourself sat opposite a local it wont be long before they strike up a conversation to find out about who you are, where you are from and what you do. When the conversation turns to football, which it often does, they really know their stuff. Although rather strangely none of them are Wolves fans!

One poor guy from Sweden on the seat behind us was sat next to a couple of Vietnamese businessmen who had brought two bottles of vodka onto the train and were having a drinking competition. Their hospitality meant that he had to join in and was only able to escape a couple of hours later when they both passed out! I like a drink as much as the next man but a neat vodka marathon at half nine in the morning is even a bit much for me.

We made it back into Hanoi for nine in the evening and checked back into our quiet fifth floor room at North Hotel No2 where we had stayed last time. Then we headed of out for dinner at a rather unusual restaurant called Cyclo, where all the chairs are made from the passenger seats of Vietnamese cyclo bikes. It was fun but unfortunately it looked a little like we were dining from wheelchairs

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