We went back to the Elite Hotel where we stayed our first night who had kept our big bags safe so we didn't have to take them on board the boat! Like usual, we were warmly welcomed back by the staff, sat down and given a much needed ice cold glass of water. This hotel couldn't be more hospitable if they tried. While we had been away they had also sorted our train tickets for that night down to Dong Hoi. The travel agent that booked our train tickets had made them purchase a ticket that took us two stations further to Hue which cost us a little extra and added a lot more time to the journey. However, the staff at the Elite Hotel then insisted on getting us a refund for this part of the journey at the station saying it wasn't necessary to travel to Hue, we could just get off at Dong Hoi as we planned. It was obviously a pre bought ticket from the agent who didn't want to loose money. One of the hotel staff then took us in a taxi to the station, got us a refund for the extra part of the journey and took us straight into our train cabin. I honestly can't recommend this hotel and their staff enough. They went well out of their way to make us feel welcomed and our journey as easy and comfortable as possible way beyond the time we stayed with them.
Before we headed to the station we nipped back to the first small backpackers bar for some 'refreshments' before choosing a place to eat.
Jamie picked a restaurant just opposite called the Green Tangerine. It was not the cheapest place to eat coming in at about £60 (you can get a very very decent meal in Hanoi for less than £20 with wine). However, it's a highly rated restaurant that served excellent food and great wine (the wine put up the price) It's a French restaurant so it was nice for Jamie to have some meat! It was a lovely last meal in Hanoi and I would definitely recommend it but you can get lovely local food for a fifth of the price.
Sadly we didn't get much time to explore any more of the city before we had to get the night train but maybe another time. We returned to the Elite Hotel to get the taxi they arranged for us. They again gave us water and also towels so we could use their shower room. We got our taxi to the station through rush hour and saw the modern part of town lined with banks, sky scrapers and lots of French designer boutiques before we arrived at the bustling Hanoi Ga.
We were taken by one of the guys from the hotel to our sleeper carriage. We walked alongside a train I assumed was ours but after passing the end of the train and towards the end of the station I began to wonder what was happening. Then we were guided over three of the tracks to our train three lines over! It made me laugh, you wouldn't dream of doing a thing like this at home - I guess you would be spending the night in a cell if you did! We boarded the train and were in a snug cabin with two bunks that slept four which we shared with a lovely and friendly Vietnamese couple and their young daughter.
The train departed exactly on time at five past eight. We sat up a bit talking to our cabin buddies before trying to get some sleep around nine. It's worth mentioning that when I first met Jamie four years ago he dropper into a number of conversations that he 'only stayed in five star hotels and got drivers most of the time and hated trains and busses' - lucky him! Oh well things change and he didn't seem too distressed!
Our cabin was supposed to be air conditioned but it was like a furnace. I sensibly took top bunk and left Jamie at the bottom so I couldn't hear his complaints or see him pouting (I put ear plugs in too just in case!) Plus the top bunk was only held on by a couple of hinges and I didn't want any accidents. By about 1am the air con kicked in and I managed to get some sleep. The cabin was immaculate and clean and the bed was comfortable and fresh clean bedding and pillows were supplied.
I set my alarm for 5am so I could see the sun rise and managed to wake most of the other people up too! I looked out and we were going through miles and miles of rural jungle. How they built this railway I do not know I will research into this over the next few days. The views were spectacular and as we approached nearer our destination the jungle opened out into rivers, lakes and of course rice paddies already busy with workers.
Jamie survived the night only with a slight comment about how I made him spend the night in a 'hell box!' I was very proud of him and look forward to how he squares up once we arrive at our destination and he realises we are going on a 22km bike ride on bikes with pedals NOT motors!
We pulled into Dong Hoi at 8am and were welcomed by our driver who was to take us to Phong Na village where we will be staying for the next few day. I'm really excited about this as there is so much to see here - keep posted!
Location:Tỉnh Lộ 561,,Vietnam