Hoa Lư, Vietnam
Up early. Yes, really. I was running at dawn, 6.20, so as to fit in an hour, get breakfast and have time to walk to the station for the 9.33 train. All worked, only fewer kids around to enjoy a “Hello!” I again waved no to several taxis and moto dudes, and was at the station to listen to the lovely sing-song announcements.
No ticket check an hour into the journey, but I think they checked for booked seats and then sold tickets to anyone in others. Loads and loads of staff. And the telly is still going, an hour in. Maybe we will get a sleep break later on.
Yes, we did. And later the Vietnamese comedy came back on. As did a few other westerners, but one benefit of travelling by train is that most passengers are local. Better than living in a I-traveller bubble.
More manual labour-signalmen. Four + hours in and we’re traveling through a remote and thickly wooded looking area. But off to one side is man with flag. What a job – trek to your box, pop out the yellow flag to let the train through.
Through paddy fields to muddy ones, people in straw cone hats farming, ploughing with oxen, bulls held loosely in place with a tether attached to a stick, pivoting on a post. Ingenious, though whether I’d rely on it to save my life if I’d inflamed a bull, I’m not sure. Such a green country, landscapes look like Constable or Wainwright’s work, until I spot a motorbike or a straw hat. Tried the train hot food – rice, meat things, veg things. Good. My elderly Vietnamese companion, who had got on with bright smile and ‘hello!’, sorted out the litter collection for me. So useful to have someone in the know.
Oddly, my left ankle hurt throughout the journey – enough that I thought I’d have to have the next day off. I still walked to the hostel. Totally fine the next day. Weird. I’m in Hue. Much more my speed (than Hanoi) – it is busy enough, but not thronging, nor buzzing with the engines of a million bikes.