Lao Cai, Vietnam/China Border

Caught the sleeper to Lao Cai, a small town a stones’ throw (1mile) from China, and gateway to Sa Pa.

What follows is a cautionary tale of the art of Vietnam sleeper trains….

I have been lucky so far, I was the smug cow that had 3 seats to myself on the plane over here, and was asleep before take off. So upon boarding the night train it seem pretty quiet, I was lured into a false sense of security thinking ‘ooh quite nice this, bit like the orient express….’

The cabins are 4 birth sleepers, and having made friends with two UK girls; Charlie and Sophie, we all want to share. Simple enough you would think. Apart from I have a slightly different ticket, so ask this station lady to switch. She seems to understands, disappears for 5 mins, and hands me a new ticket – not in same cabin, but same coach – the best she can do. I will probably be able to swap once we get on she says. We all get on. We find Coach 9 and try to stake out our territory, for all of 2 mins. A Vietnamese couple come in, they don’t wanna switch, so I admit defeat and go to find my allocated bed a coach down. The joke is on me, as station bitch downgraded me from the tourist train to cattle class! Gutted. My new companions are a Vietnamese family playing some whaling Vietnamese pop music, through speakers, not headphones. They bitch about my arrival (I think).

I head back to the posh carriage to tell Sophie and Charlie this tale and hang out there for about half an hour.  When I get back to my scummy coach 8 the second time, turns out they have sold my bed?! Vietnamese entrepreneurialism at it’s best.

The guy in it turns out to be understanding, and can speak enough English to understand my ‘get the hell out of there. please.’ dirty look.

I settle in, and despite everything sleep quite well, but will think twice before trading any kind of air/train/bus ticket again. Rooky mistake!

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