Night Train to Danang

“Be like a train; go in the rain, go in the sun, go in the storm, go in the dark tunnels! Be like a train; concentrate on your road and go with no hesitation!” Mehmet Murat ildan

Night Train to Danang

After a three hour delay leaving Hanoi, we finally boarded the train at 11:00 PM, found our compartment, and tried to get some rest.

I was half-sleeping in my lower berth when the train abruptly stopped. Immediately someone pounded on our compartment door and began shouting. When I opened the door, we were told (in Vietnamese) to get our bags and get off the train. One didn’t have to know the language to understand.

“Why do we have to get off”? I ask. “This isn’t Danang”.

But the woman official didn’t understand me. Our travel companions, Robert and Paula, quickly began gathering their things and I was left with another matter. Ron, my husband, who had just taken half a sleeping pill at 3:00 AM, could not be aroused out of his slumber. I yelled and pulled and finally got him to a standing position, but it was clear he did not want to participate. I loaded him up with bags and looked around one more time to see if any thing was left behind. Robert’s boxed leftover supper was there in a plastic bag. I threw my journal and loose stuff in with it and guided Ron down the train steps.

It was now 3:30 AM

We were the last ones to get off and I could barely see Robert and Paula at the end of the line of people heading around the building. It was dark and a gentle rain was falling. I proceeded to try and catch up when I noticed Ron going in a completely different direction. It looked like he was trying to get a luggage cart which we didn’t need. I shouted to him and started to go after him, but the not so tiny Vietnamese uniformed women standing there would not let me past them. She ordered me to continue up the road. I tried to stay calm, but being separated from my husband in this bizarre nightmare only created more anxiety. I kept walking and there appeared Ron. He had merely gone through the building and caught up with us, but looked like a sleepwalking zombie.

There were three transport buses and everyone had boarded except for us four. The male official pointed to the first bus for us to get on, but then decided it was full. We pulled our wet muddy luggage onto the third bus, but there were no seats. They put folding chairs in the aisle at the back for Robert and Ron who dragged their luggage with them. Two men near the front of the bus were told to give Paula and me their seats. They too ended up on folding chairs in the aisle.

“Does anyone speak English?” I asked and there was only silence.

The man next to me looked at me and said, “Madam, I speak a little.”

With relief I asked him why we had to get off the train, board buses, and where are we going? He explained that the tracks were flooded and that we must go by land to another town so that we can reconnect with the train. Of course, this made sense.

I thanked him and relayed the information to Paula who was sitting behind me and she passed it back to our husbands. Ron had already fallen asleep with his head propped up on a Vietnamese woman’s shoulder who was also asleep. He said how well he slept.

I did not sleep. It seemed like everyone on this bus had a cold, cough or flu. The woman in the seat across the aisle from me was vomiting in a latex exam glove. I had to really use mind over matter to get beyond this. Her husband was holding their small son while all their belongings were stuffed around them. The mother looked feverish. I truly felt sorry for her.

We were on a hilly, curvy, two lane road dotted with villages. Our driver was trying to make up lost time and going fast for rainy conditions. He was also trying to keep up with the two speeding buses ahead of him. I just prayed we didn’t end up on our side like the buses we had seen along the roads in Tanzania.

When it becomes light enough to see, I try to get glimpses of the roadside between bobbing heads.

Amazing how village life starts early. The road is lined with bicycles of uniformed school children all heading in the same direction. Efficiently, the bicycle is carrying two to three kids, each with his tiny backpack stuck in the face of the one behind. The last child often held an umbrella over the group. Most were wearing plastic raincoats or ponchos in pastel shades of pink, blue, yellow and green, billowing like tiny sails.

Crude hand carts overflowing with produce were being pulled to markets. Out door kitchens were still busy making pho, a traditional noodle soup which is eaten for breakfast and lunch. I pretended to smell that wonderful aroma.

The country side is beautiful in the rain. Water buffalo are ankle deep in the rice paddies which are shrouded in mist.

I am finally relaxed and enjoying the sights and even thankful for getting bumped off the train.

After several hours, we finally arrive at a small train depot, gather our belongings and once again drag the suitcases through more mud. Ron is awake and actually a little chipper. We board the train and find our compartment only to discover it is occupied. We take another sleeper and now we are on our way. Our 11 hour trip from Hanoi to Danang has taken almost 16 hours.

Such is traveling.

I reach in the plastic bag for my journal only to discover that Robert’s leftover box meal had spilled. I remove the journal and clean it off and hand him his leftovers.

I find a spot on the bottom bunk and begin writing.

My journal smells like fish sauce reminding me of all the good meals we’ve had and the laughs the four of us have shared on this month long SE Asia trip.

Ron immediately goes back to sleep and all is right with the world.

Travel Memoirs: 2010

 “There is nothing like a train journey for reflection.”
― Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dream


About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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25 Responses to Night Train to Danang

  1. Beautiful image, Lynne. What a bizarre experience! I would have been more than anxious to be separated from my hubby under such circumstances. So glad it all worked out in the end. Thanks for sharing your travel tale. 🙂

  2. The best thing that happened out of this experience was watching the school children on their bicycles and observing that gorgeous country side. The down side was catching a cold within a few days. Thanks for reading this lengthy travel tale, Sylvia. 🚉😊

  3. Letizia says:

    I love Ron’s storyline throughout this whole adventure. Somehow making it through perfectly.

  4. restlessjo says:

    The billowing children with their umbrella conjure a lovely picture, Lynne, but I can’t help but think that Ron came out of this rather well. Painless, in fact. He didn’t even know he was best mates with a Vietnamese lady. 🙂

  5. Painless and oblivious, Jo. We still laugh about this. His answer is “how is a guy going to sleep on a folding chair in the aisle of a speeding bus without a decent place to put your head.”I wish I could had pictures of it as well as the villages and school kids. That was a pleasant memory. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you hanging in there for me to get motivated again. 😊

  6. Kings On the Road says:

    Great story Lynne. Of course trains are almost always good for a story. We can just imagine Ron sleep walking through the night. He’s lucky he has you as his guide

    • You both must have many train stories with your passion for trains and their history. Thanks for noticing that behind every man is a woman, at least a woman who didn’t want to repeat the Rip Van Winkle story. 😀

  7. vbholmes says:

    Pretty frightening losing a sleepwalking Ron in the crowd like that. And, I would imagine, a bit unsettling finding yourself on a bus to unknown destinations in the wee hours of the morning. Sounds like the beginning of an Alfred-Hitchcock-inspired movie. Glad the dawn brought colorful children and lovely scenery. Turns out this is how “memorable memories” are made.

    • I was really put out with these officials for not seeing to it that he remained in line and allowed him to stray and yet not let me get him. But, then again, they knew he couldn’t go far. A novel? With a good ending. Thanks VB for your thoughtful comment.

  8. Kan says:

    Oh my. Sounds like a pretty terrible experience. Good on you to look at the bright side 🙂 your story reminds me of one of my favourite writers, Ruskin Bond, who tells incredible tales of train travel in India.

  9. Paula says:

    Engaging! I would have felt I was there even if I hadn’t been! Ahhh, memories…..

  10. Madhu says:

    That’s quite an adventure Lynne! Glad it ended well. You paint a very evocative picture with your words. Especially that of Ron with his head propped on the Vietnamese lady’s shoulder! 😀

    Your story reminds me of the time R settled into his bunk to sleep as soon as he got on to the train in Chennai and jumped awake the next morning to realize the train hadn’t budged!! 😀

  11. Oh Madhu! I am laughing out loud. Am glad your R got an uninterrupted good night’s sleep, even though he never moved. 🙂

    Ron was a good sport about it all, especially with being kidded about falling asleep with his head propped on the lady’s shoulder. Yes, it ended well and I enjoyed writing about it. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  12. cindy knoke says:

    You write so beautifully and what an incredible life you are leading. I am happy for you and pleased to know you.

  13. What a sweet thing to say, Cindy. And, the same to you. Your travels, photography and descriptions convey an appreciation and respect for Mother Nature. 🌄

  14. Your adventure reads like an opening to a book. You had me captivated with your story and wanted more at the end! 🙂

  15. Traveling takes us down roads that are full of challenges and adventures. This was one with a happy ending. Thank you so much for reading this lengthy account and taking the time to comment. 😊

  16. Gigi says:

    I love this story! It’s so funny and thrilling, a real page turner! Absolutely adore it – your drawing of Ron half asleep is hilarious and adds another whole dimension to you two lovely souls! So sweet! Much love to you both! xox

  17. You got that right, Gigi, funny and thrilling at the same time. I have told the story too many times to not finally write it down. 😀

  18. Tahira says:

    Thus is travel. How appropriate, Lynne. And so beautifully written, your words paint such a storybook feel for the reader.

  19. You are most kind, Tahira. I have always enjoyed reading about your adventures and the unexpected occurrences along the way.

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