Narrowly avoiding a good, hard fleecing by the taxi driver, we got to the train station, Ga Saigon, just after 10pm. The train was kinda old and shitty and you could easily imagine Michael Palin clambering aboard to journey further into the Himalayas or similar. Our sleeper cabin was supposed to be of the best kind, although the stained sheets and a foam mattress that was too short for the bunk didn’t quite agree with that description. We’d bought some traditional Vietnamese train journey supplies earlier that day – crackers, crisps and chocolate chip cookies – so with that taken care of, we made our beds and settled in.
We weren’t alone in the cabin- the other two bunks were taken by a 20yr old german draft dodger with a self imposed American accent, who had opted to teach English in Vietnam rather than suffer national service and a Vietnamese girl who was also teaching English TEFL-style.
The journey itself was uneventful, the train itself felt like it was hurtling, rushing blindly and recklessly into the dark and it was tough to sleep at times from the buffeting of the train, throwing you around in the bunk. We woke just as the sun was rising and spent the next half hour or so marvelling at the incredible scenery the train was racing through. It was like watching a continuous, sweeping shot from a Vietnam war film that was never made. Rice paddies and palm trees, just missing the line of soldiers, wading slowly through the water. Got a few shots of the sun reflecting in the rice paddies, but the window was bit filthy, so unfortunately missed out on getting better pics.
Our stop was Da Nang and to get to Hoi An took yet another bartered taxi ride. Really kinda sick of all this haggling you have to do all the time. I really get the feeling that it’s all about the tourists. Larger items – clothes or nik-naks you can understand there being some markup and therefore haggling is fine, but having to battle your way to a fair price when buying a bottle of water or a fucking banana just gets exasperating after a while. Mostly it puts me off buying things on the street – I just want to know the price of it – sure, add some on top for yourself, but make it fair and keep it constant.
Anyway – got to Hoi An and found our hotel ok – nice place and has a pool 🙂 We dropped our things in the room and headed out for a wander.
What a beautiful place – and how different from Saigon! Suddenly the number of restaurant touts and shop owners beckoning you into their shops dwindled into manageable doses. The town centre was built by the french around the river and french-colonial style houses, draped in vines and lanterns lined both sides of it, a brightly lit bridge joining the two sides.
For the first time on this trip, I felt properly relaxed.