Travel special 2014: Breakfast on bed on a rail journey from Hanoi to Hué

 

Springtime, just before the new century began. As Laos is now the new Cambodia, Vietnam was then the new Thailand, and my girlfriend and I had arrived – with our backpacks – to see what all the fuss was about. The capital Hanoi had dazzled, and we were due to take the train 420 miles down the coast to Hué. We were late, though. We were always late.

Time for a cab, or two haphazard cyclo boys, pedalling frantically. Mine winged a couple of pedestrians en-route, my girlfriend's stole the hat of a passer-by while he turned a corner. In the event, though, it was our train – part of the so-called Reunification Express service that links Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City – that failed to show up on time. So we waited, squatting on the platform, drinking Saigon lager and munching dragon fruit.

We'd decided to go posh: our tickets cost $32 and entitled us to two bunks, one above the other, in soft sleeper class. But the Vietnamese bloke with the loud CD-player who'd picked the berth opposite my girlfriend's was too attentive for her liking. She swapped to a top bunk, which meant a grumpy, elderly guru relocating to the one below mine. We all rattled slowly southwards listening to bad pop music until daybreak brought the trauma of breakfast in bed.

Vietnam's French-colonial/south-east Asian cultural mash-up means baguettes and noodle soup. Sleep-deprived and over-eager, I immediately spilled mine spectacularly, noodle-juice sloshing in torrents on to the wise man below. I mopped up. I apologised profusely, albeit in the wrong language. But there were still several hours of awkwardness to navigate before Hué. And we'd be late to arrive, of course. We were always late.

From £18 to £34, vietnam-railway.com

Travel special 2014: Recalling murderous fun on the Orient Express

Travel special 2014: Escape the bustle of London on a rail journey to Pen-y-Bont

Travel special 2014: Think you know the Trans-Siberian Railway? Think again...

Travel special 2014: A culinary adventure eating around India in 80 trains

Travel special 2014: Soak in the scenery on a train journey from Newcastle to Carlisle  

Travel special 2014: The train journey from Memphis to New Orleans passes like a dream  

Travel special 2014: A Tale of two cities on the Moscow-St Petersburg railway

Travel special 2014: Let the legendary seduction of the Indian railways cast its spell on you  

Travel special 2014: Hit the pause button on the rail'n'sail route from London to Dublin  

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Finance Manager (FP&A) - Surrey - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful leisure company is seek...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionist, Bar and Waiter / Waitress & Housekeeping

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The positions above are available either part ...

    Guru Careers: Fitness Centre Supervisor / Duty Manager

    £25K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Fitness Centre Supervisor / Duty Manager ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Museum is dedicated to exp...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food