Vietnam – Worst Train Ride Ever – January 2011
We took an overnight train from Nha Trang to Hue as the flights were somewhat expensive and there wasn’t a better alternative. Our first class cabin had 6 beds (we had the bottom bunks on each side) and over the course of the journey between 8-10 inhabitants. Turns out the other four beds in the cabin were booked by a family of four, with the extended family (and frequent visitors to our cabin) in the next cabin over. The vietnamese have a much smaller radius of personal space, and few concerns over surpressing bodily noises, and so we were constantly having people bump into us, burping, farting and talking loudly around us. I woke up from a fitfull night’s sleep in a fetal position, feeling crowded already with a two foot wide bunk, and with an old man’s butt sitting 4 inches from my face and another invididual at my feet. Turns out the whole extended family decided to have a picnic breakfast in our cabin! Despite our discomfort, the family was very friendly, attempted conversation with us and offered us some food from their breakfast.
I also visited the train toilet the night before and found that not only was it just a whole in the floor (which I pretty much expected), but that the whole bathroom compartment floor angled into this hole and that it seemed most people had viewed that as a liberty to pee and poop wherever they pleased. It might possibly have been due more to the fact that the floor was also constantly bouncing a foot or so in random directions and up and down, but I kinda doubt it. I imagine that when it gets cleaned (which appeared to be rarely), the sanitation man just opens up a water hose full blast and sprays down the whole compartment!
The second class section of the train was all wooden benches and was crowded with all sorts of sweaty and tired humanity. There were people sleeping on the floor, kids crying, smokers filing the air, and crates of chickens clucking away. There was no A/C of course, so windows were fully opened and filled the cars with fresh air and the rumble of the wheels as they clattered along the ancient rails.
In the morning, we glanced out our window and, as the train rounded a bend in the hill, noticed that there were a number of people hanging out on the roof! We can only imagine that they had cat-like balance to stay put on the constantly-rocking and rolling cars, and good lookouts to warn of the frequent tunnel arches that we passed a couple feet under. Of course, with the quality of conditions inside the cars, maybe those on the roof were the smart and/or privileged ones!
Overally the ride was bumpy, loud and crowded but it did get us to where we needed to get eventually. I may sound like a grumpy and pampered American, and not appreciative of the opportunity for a unique cultural experience that the train ride presented to me, but I feel like I am usually pretty immune to poor travel conditions and We will forever remember it as the train ride from hell.