Friday, February 22, 2008

Sapa-Lao Cai-Hanoi: Minibus, Train, Taxi & Cubbyhole

We took a minibus to catch the 8 pm train in Lao Cai. Although The Boyfriend did not enjoy the ride from Lao Cai to Sapa, I didn’t have too many problems except feeling a few bumps. Unfortunately, the return trip was not as smooth. The bus was going up and down, around mountains, lurching forward then breaking; it was horrible. I am not the type who gets nauseous (unlike The Little Sister who used to get car sick as a child). It seems this ride made up for all those times I never felt sick.

When we arrived in Lao Cai, an hour before departure, the people from our minibus decided to go into a restaurant before the train departed. Smoking has not yet been banned inside buildings here in Vietnam. In my condition, I couldn’t bear to be in a restaurant with numerous smokers, so I sat outside with The Boyfriend.

The Boyfriend was approached by a Viet Kieu who asked if he spoke English and indicated he came from BC. Supposedly, the simple bond of being Canadian is quite strong abroad. After speaking to him, we found out he was born in Quang Ngai (my parents’ hometown), where his father used to be the chief of police. Five minutes later, we’re sitting with him, his wife and friends at a table outside and The Boyfriend is having rice alcohol shots (37% alcohol, yikes!). I pled car sickness and had a tiny sip, which was sufficient.

We then went on to catch our train. In our cabin was a young Vietnamese man. Now, not too sound judgmental, but this guy looked like a SNORER! While The Boyfriend and I played cribbage, our new roommate fell asleep while reading his newspaper. We were definitely not wrong about the snoring… When we decided to go to bed, I turned off the lamp – our roommate’s individual light was still on. Two minutes after I turn off the communal lamp, our roommate awakes, turns it back ON and starts to read again. How rude!

We finally arrived in Hanoi at 4:00 am. After the previous taxi fiasco, my first question is “Meter?”. “Yes, meter”, I am assured. We’re then pretty sure he takes the longer drive home because it still cost over 40,000D. You just can’t win with these cab drivers.

When we arrive at the hotel, it’s 4:30 am now and the owner wakes up to greet us. Before we left, he was 80% sure of having an available room that night. He actually did have a room for the night, but it would only be available at 8 am. However, he did offer us a “platform”, he called it, where we could lie down until a room was ready. It was literally a cubbyhole – you couldn’t stand in it and the width barely accommodated our bodies. Now the hotel was not in the wrong. It was actually generous of them to let us come in and stay there at 4:30 am – we didn’t actually pay for this. I was out by 7 am, surfing the free internet and we had a nice room by 9 am. I will try to avoid cubby holes from now on though.

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