What do you do when you have to take your teenager on holiday without his older brother for the first time? I know! What was I thinking, don’t do it, let him take a friend, leave him at home? My husband and I call him the tiger; he’s nocturnal and extremely bad tempered if disturbed. We draw straws to see who will wake him up in the mornings. But hey I had to look at this more positively - no more having to go to places with huge swimming pools, water slides and kids clubs we could actually be a little more adventurous. So I thought Vietnam sounded a little more interesting, and train travel seemed much more fun than a package tour. Both my husband and son were a little sceptical, they had read a few blogs on Vietnam that said it was impossible to get out of the airport, walk on pavements or cross roads due to the sheers number of people and mopeds, but I thought it sounded exciting.
After a few days in a cosmopolitan hotel in central Ho Chi Minh City, and visiting the tourist sites including the palace, war museum and cathedral they were taking the experience in their stride. My sixteen year old son looked liked he owned the place and once crossing the roads were mastered he quite quickly figured out where all Wi-Fi cafe, KFC’s and shopping malls were and we left him to it.
Then it was time to catch the train to Hoi An. I booked a first class sleeper; the pictures were beautiful and only fifteen hours mostly through the night. I loaded up with a food and the local newspaper before boarding as both husband and son can be a bit picky. The first warning was the train station, everywhere we had been in Ho Chi Minh was spotless but the platform and track were litter strewn and the odd rat spotting kept me amused. As the train pulled in you could definitely tell it wasn’t the one on the picture, and they both kept asking if I was sure I had the right one. Yes, yes, seven pm Sleeper arriving Denang noon the next day.
First thing my son said, “you can’t make sleep in there”. He had a point. The little table and windows were covered in some green sticky stuff, there was rubbish over the floors and the bed sheets and pillows looked a little lived in. The loud speaker in the cabin couldn’t be turned down, the door lock was broken and the air con was blasting a gale. The cabin was way better than the toilets. My husbands said “what you have done!” I sent them on a little explore and then used my handy wet wipes and plastic bag to clean everything in sight. I even cleaned the wash room at he end of the corridor, but couldn’t face the toilet. I laid my sarongs over the beds. My husband spoke to the steward and told him about the mess, breakages extra, he was lovely, oh yes, I m sorry, no nothing I can do about it but I’m sorry. Not wanting to sound like the spoilt western tourist we are, we made the most of it. My husband used my eyebrow tweezers and tissue to block the connection for the loud speaker, he tied the blankets between the two top bunks too reduce the air conditioner blast and used his belt to lock the door. My son had the idea that if he put his headphones on and sleep for fifteen hours he could survive it; my husband thought if he didn’t eat or drink for fifteen hours he wouldn’t need to use the toilet.
I thought it was lovely I had a softly rocking bed with a beautiful changing view of amazing country side; I had a great picnic all to my self. I found a water boiler at the bottom of the carriage to make hot drinks and everyone was so friendly. My husband and son survived and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to cancel the return train and book a flight which meant I had to find an extra night’s accommodation. I managed to find a cheap place in China Town, now that’s another story!