The trip to Hoi An

As referenced in my last post, I spent a bit over 24 hours traveling to get down to Hoi An. First of course was the bus ride back to Hanoi from Halong Bay, which was extended thanks to a half-hour delay from a bridge down to one lane. I finally found something that will stop Vietnamese motos- a river & a one-lane bridge under construction! Once back in old town, I gave the exact intersection for the travel agency where I needed to pick-up my train ticket, and had told the guide that I HAD to be there by 6, just to avoid being late for a 7:30 train. Well, right around 6, I get dropped off (last), about 3 or 4 blocks away. Urg. Trooping through crowded old town streets with a pack is just no fun. In any case, I made it, picked up my ticket, and patiently waited for my taxi. Luckily, we didn't hit too much traffic on the way to the station, so I arrived in plenty of time. So, I went in search of some dinner. There wasn't much, at all. But I saw a stand with some sort of hot dogs, and the lady smiled, and said, "chicken?" I said Ok, and all of a sudden I was getting a Vietnamese sandwich. She proceeded to cut every piece of meat off a roasted chicken leg, with scissors, then stuffed a baguette with cilantro, some variety of sauces, and the meat, which she'd dipped in oil, I guess to heat it up? In any case, it was overall pretty good, minus a few bits of cartilage I had to spit out. At this point, I wanted to at least figure out where the train was, but they just waved me through to the tracks, some guy grabbed my ticket & directed me around the train on track 1, and then I found my car & cabin. It was only 7pm, but there wasn't much else to do, so I took some photos & started to (try to) get comfy.

First to arrive in my cabin was a nice British fellow (named Ian), and then shortly before we got ready to leave a retiree from Australia (named Ken) joined our cabin, and that was to be it for the evening. We had a nice chat and traded travel stories. Ian has been traveling for awhile, having taken the Trans-Siberian express & made his way down through China, so he def had some cool tales. Ken actually has retired to Hoi An, so he was giving us tips about this & that. I convinced Ian to a game of cards to help pass the time, and he ended up teaching me cribbage! Pretty fun little bar game, which hopefully I can remember. :). Eventually, I braved the washroom (not realizing there was a western toilet at the other end of the car), popped an ambien, and was out.

Approximately 7, blissful hours later I woke up, having only been roused a time or two during train stops. It took a while to get the grogginess out, but then again, my compatriots were still down, and we weren't going anywhere! Around 9am, we came to the stop at Hue, not that it was announced or anything, and most everyone else got off at this point. One of Ian's buddies from his recent Halong bay trip joined us from his cabin elsewhere on the train. He's currently living in Wellington, but was another Brit, named Steve. He informed us that we were already about an hour behind schedule. Great. So, for the next FIVE hours, we chatted, I napped, and more than anything, sat & stared out the window. Often from a stopped train, for no apparent reasons. There was a food cart that came by at one point, but it wasn't anything we would've wanted. I survived on cashews, Pringles, and Oreos. The only saving grace of this interminable trip was the good company, and the ever increasingly improving scenery. We finally go to the coast, which was somewhat reminiscent of the Marin coastline, in a way, and then started to climb over the pass above Da Nang. We saw lots of gorgeous little beaches & such, and then FINALLY, around 3, we arrived into the station at Da Nang. Ken had a friend picking him up, so the rest of us agreed to share a cab down to Hoi An. Ian's hotel was just down from mine, and then Steve continued on to find a cheap place downtown. Now good buddies, we all exchanged emails & promised to meet up for drinks later.

I was checked in to another adorable little guesthouse that Val had found. The owner let me know they were having a little welcome dinner with wine at 5:30, which I nearly missed, being so wiped out from my journey. They were adorable though, and made for us most of the Hoi An specialties. I reunited with Val, but Gregg was sick in bed, and then the other couples at dinner were super sweet. After a quick check on the invalid, I called it a night. Boarding a bus around 1pm & checking in to the next hotel at around 4pm the next day was rough, even though it consisted of a LOT of sitting... Some pics from the train, but still need to upload everything from Hoi An.