This one is for Jeremy.
We wanted to fly from Hanoi to Vientiane, but the flights were really dear, something like $250 each. We thought our only option was to catch a dreadful sleeping bus that takes about 15 hours instead. (See this post for thoughts on sleeping buses.) Things were looking grim until Jeremy stumbled upon an incredibly cheap flight from Vinh to Vientiane. We quickly bought tickets so we wouldn’t miss out. Next problem – how to get from Hanoi to Vinh? Vinh is about 300km south of Hanoi. Jeremy suggested that we catch the train. I was a bit unsure, but in the end I agreed and it was actually a lot of fun.
Six hours in a soft seat, and the catering carts came in quick succession; the first selling hot corn and tubs of yoghurt, the second selling drinks, and the third selling fried bits like spring rolls and different kinds of meat on a stick. We were adventurous and bought a cà phê sữa đá each. At this point I should mention that I was suffering from a nasty head cold. I may have had to mingle with other people’s wee in the train’s squatter toilet, but I am quite certain that my germs infected at least half of the poor souls unfortunate enough to be in our carriage and probably most of the other people on the train as well. I’m sorry about this. I was a spluttering mess for most of the journey. While we are on bodily functions, another point worth mentioning is that the toilets on these trains do indeed empty straight onto the track. Even when the train is stopped at a station. I realised this when we alighted at Vinh in the early afternoon.
One other thing I discovered is that taxis will actually come up onto the platform to collect passengers. Some passengers will, of course, have no problems crossing the tracks to secure a taxi before passengers using the proper exiting facilities.
Final note, Vinh was fun and Jeremy’s beard attracted a lot of attention.
Here are a couple of pics from Vinh station.