19 October 2013

Vietnam, Part 4: High Water.

I slept on and off on the train until about 5am. I turned around on my bunk so that I could watch out the window as the sun came up. It was raining. I didn't think much about the rain at the time, but perhaps I should have . . . I was busy playing like I was in an old movie. (Only in my head I was not unshowered and wearing a sports bra, I was in a crisp beautiful suit lined with fur and a pillbox hat.)

The two lovely ladies sleeping on the top bunks were from Australia and the lovely gentlemen on the bottom bunk next to me was from Hanoi. So every time the train made an announcement--which wasn't very often--the lovely gentlemen would tell us what was going on.

The rain was getting heavier outside. And lightening was happening. A lot of lightening. Everything was glowing. And right around oh-maybe-7am, the train lurched forward and then came to a screeching halt. (When I say lurched forward, I mean that I almost flew off my bunk and may have said "Jesus" rather loudly.) I thought for sure with the amount of force that we came to a stop that we hit a water buffalo or something. But no, I would soon realize that's just how this train came to stops and it was completely normal.

Since we were stopped, I decided to stretch my legs a bit and walk around. I walked through 10 cars and wound up at the dining car. It was filled with men, smoking. I was the only female apart from the waitress. At that point, I did feel like I was in a movie. Everything became super quiet when I walked in and my voice cracked a bit when I asked for a coffee. After my order was placed, everything resumed to normal. I sat next to a man eating two eggs, spooning them right out of their shell. I kept thinking that he would be the perfect person to be sitting next to if a train robbery were to happen right now.

When I got back to my cabin, the train still hadn't started back up. So I decided it was time to watch a few episodes of Offspring. (Thankful to have brought my computer, unlike that time in Thailand.)

Three hours later and we still had no idea what was going on. But I noticed people were getting off the train and walking around, so I decided to do the same. Beautiful, happy kids on bikes everywhere. Following me around saying, "hello, hello, hello". The town was remote, but really wonderful visually. I stumbled onto a church and took a quick picture of it before I heard the whistle. It was time to go again! Hooray!

The train continued for another hour or so and stopped again. More lurching. This time I got off and purchased a bag of hard candies. I'm not sure why I bought them, but it seemed like the purchase to make at the time. I'm pretty sure it was the only thing I could make out at the stand where I bought them, so I knew what I would be eating.

This time the train was stopped for a good 5 hours. Hmm. Perhaps I won't be getting to Hue at 3pm this afternoon, considering it is already noon. But my phone doesn't work outside of Singapore, and I'm too stubborn to buy a SIM card. Riiiiiigggghhtt. Hmmm. It was at this point that our first train announcement was made: water is high. Water is high? What does that mean? I don't see any water. I only see farms and trees. What does that mean?

A lady came down the aisle selling things from a cart. I narrowed down what I could recognize and ended up buying four beers from her. I would ration them throughout the rest of the train ride, I thought.( Except they didn't really last that long.)

We started off again. Lurch. Stop. This time the train was stopped for at least 8 hours. Only we were surrounded completely by trees. And all signs of toilet paper were gone. 

I slept for a little while, wrote two blog entries document-style, and thought about my graduate school work. I also visualized about trains. There were 4 people in my cabin, and we were pretty tight. But up a few cars, there were 6 beds in a cabin. In the same space allotted for us. They were super-tight. My thoughts were turning rather unpleasant because there was a growing "cooked chicken" smell that kept getting stronger and stronger. And there was no ventilation. Every time we opened our hallway window, a train guy would come by and close it. Train robberies were one thing, but now my thoughts were of being trapped on a train. And snakes on a train. And what happens if I never get off of this train? 

Another announcement: high water

Maybe we should just turn around? Let's all just go back to Hanoi and call it a day, what do you think?

Nope. Right as it turned dark, we started up again. Now I couldn't see out the window, so I didn't know what was happening. But it was dark, and still raining. We stopped again. Just before midnight. OMG.

We were now about 9 hours past our arrival time and nowhere near our destination. And none of us knew what was going on aside from "high water".

We started off again around 3 or 4am. Still feeling quite disgusting, physically and internally, I started popping my hard candies. My purchase from a few stops back would be my sustenance. At one point, someone came down the hallway and offered us purple soup. But none of us ate it. It was a beautiful color, though. Lavender, really.

As the sun began to rise, it became clear to all of us what was going on. High water meant just that. But perhaps instead of high water, they should have said what seemed more appropriate: massive flooding. Due to a typhoon (which apparently only happens twice a season), two rivers had merged and taken over the entire area. I began to shoot images from the train. 

Me being trapped on a train felt like nothing compared to seeing people scooping out water from their houses. Piles of wet clothes on porches. People sitting on rooftops. Whole power sources completely under water. Apparently this happens frequently enough that the community is used to it, but still . . . 

We only stopped one more time before reaching our first official train stop. Some people got off, some people got on. 

It was only a quick 3 hours before we would reach our final destination, so I had packed everything up in heated anticipation.

We finally reached Hue at noon on Thursday, a mere 37 hours after we departed Hanoi. Eeeegads and oh gawd. I expected a parade at our arrival, but no one seemed interested. Actually the taxi drivers were interested, but no one else seemed to care. I hopped in a cab and was on my way: howdy, Hue! More soon.

Check out the rest of my trip: here, here, and here . . . Adventure-town!

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