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The Big O.E An epic adventure across the world, backpacker style :)

Prison Train to Hanoi

VIETNAM | Sunday, 17 June 2007 | Views [2225] | Comments [2]

The jungle and mountains of the Ho Chi Minh Trail

The jungle and mountains of the Ho Chi Minh Trail

The train to Hanoi was booked out, but we managed to wangle tickets at the last minute. Not a soft sleeper like we planned, or even a hard sleeper. Not even a soft seat for that matter. A hard seat (translation: skinny wooden bench 50cms wide). As the train pulled in, we watched the nice carriages go past. And the average carriages. Then the hard seats. But the carriages kept coming. Until the prison carriage arrived. It was just unbelievable.

The small carriage had 80 Vietnamese people squished in. We squeezed our packs into the little racks and squeezed our bodies into the little seats. My knees touched the lady facing me. My hips and thighs pushed right up against James'. It was 8pm. Only 16 hours to go until Hanoi.

There were no windows, so we could hear the chugging of the train, the horrid screeches of brakes and metal on metal grating. The tunnels were the worst - thundering noise. There was no air conditioning and no fans. That was okay, as it dropped to a pleasant 35 degrees in the carriage.

Babies cried, everyone stank (as you do when it's hot and cramped). The toilets were so hideous it made the Indian train stations seem almost sanitary in comparison. They were so revolting that mothers didn't even take their children to the toilets. They just brought their own buckets. Which the kids peed in and pooed in right there in front of everyone. So we had the lovely smell of urine and faeces percolating in the heat, which permeated the carriage (and our clothes, and our hair).

We managed all this quite well. We managed to talk with the people around us in sign language/English/Vietnamese. They thought we were quite amusing in the cheap carriage. We managed to watch people sleep on the floor in the filth. We managed to read a few pages of our books. James even managed to sleep for an hour or two. I just sat there, enjoying the light on throughout the night, the smell of B.O and piss, the sounds of tunnels and snoring and the feeling of sweaty bodies pressed against me.

By lunchtime the next day, many baby wipes and much hand sanitiser later, we arrived in Hanoi with bruises on our bums. No kidding. It was a great ride, a once in a lifetime experience. You could not pay me to ever do it again :) 

Tags: Adventures




Thankyou for your experience. I will never dread anyone to be in the situation you both endured - never train to Hanoi. Regards,Philip

  philip Jun 23, 2007 2:46 PM


Wow! That had to be worse than our experience on the economy class Indonesian train! Congratulations!

  Adrienne and Sean Jul 1, 2007 9:49 PM

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