After my exhilarating journey to Hue I set about planning my route to Hanoi. I decided to spend just one day in the city and then take the night train straight to Hanoi so that I could spend my final few days in Vietnam enjoying all of the treats that the North has to offer. Hue itself was an average stop, it has none of Hoi An’s charm however I did enjoy a couple of hours strolling around the old Imperial Citadel.
The highlight of stopping in Hue (after the Hai Van Pass) was in fact, my subsequent night train to Hanoi. The bus is a far cheaper alternative for this trip, but leaves only at 4:30 or 5pm and I had a job interview (via skype) at 5, so needed to seek some other options. Trains in Vietnam have several classes and I opted to book the 9:30pm to Hanoi with a soft sleeper. This essentially meant I got a small bed on the train.
By 9:30pm came around I was already getting tired and was ready to get settled. The soft sleeper berths have four beds to a cabin and you pay slightly more for a bottom bunk, which I did. The cabin locks and there are basic toilets in the carriage. Essentially you have all that you need for the night apart from a bottle of water and perhaps some snacks.
I shared my cabin with an older Vietnamese lady who spoke zero words of English, which was a nice match for my zero words of Vietnamese. I settled in to sleep quickly but woke up a few hours later to find her sitting up on her bed, she signalled at me with her hands pointing urgently at the door. It seemed that she could not open it, and needed to get out of the cabin, so I sat for a few minutes and figured out how to release the latch then let her out. Several hours later the same thing repeated despite my trying to explain to her how to do it herself in case I was sleeping.
In the morning when I woke up she had bought me a breakfast of sticky rice to say thank you for helping her through the night and we attempted to communicate a little while longer. I was so touched by her gesture as really it was no trouble to help her and of course, anyone would do that, you wouldn’t just leave the person stuck! At her stop I helped her out of the cabin with her luggage and she headed off into the distance.
This journey and the small connection became such a significant part of my trip and for that I am so pleased I did not take the bus. The train was not only more comfortable and interesting but also a great chance to mix with the locals and experience something different.