Travel special 2014: Breakfast on bed on a rail journey from Hanoi to Hué
Ben Ross is Head of Travel at The Independent. He has worked for the paper for over a decade, and began reporting on travel in 2001. Before joining the travel desk full time, he ran The Independent's special projects department. He started his journalistic career at the BBC working for its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.
Saturday 25 January 2014
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
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Isis 'jihadi bride' claims forced sex with Yazidi girls is never rape because Koran condones it
- 2 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 3 Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
- 4 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
£24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...
Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...
£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...