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Published: July 16th 2015
Waking at 0600, I get up to take some more pictures as the light is completely different without the haze. Some other passengers are doing Tai Chi on the front deck as it is so much cooler this morning. It won't last long. I have about 3 cups of coffee to make up for all those days without any. There is also an assortment of tropical fruit and some cereal as a precurser to brunch after we do a tour to the floating fishing village. We get on the tender boat again and are transferred to wooden boats where an oarsman takes us up close and personal with the limestone karsts and floating village. We are hot and sweaty upon our return to the boat and wearing the life vests makes it worse. Luckily there is time to have a quick shower before our luggage has to be packed up. Brunch is awesome, although I wasn't really that hungry, but they went to so much effort to prepare everything...All in all, this has been an amazing experience and I can not fault anything. Definitely a highlight in my travelling career, but as all good things must come to an end, we
still have a 3.5 hour bus journey back to Hanoi and need to psych ourselves up for slumming it on another overnight sleeper to Sa Pa in the mountains, close to the Chinese border.
Upon arrival in Ha Noi we are able to rest for a while and charge our devices up in the air conditioned booking office where we kept our luggage over night. So I catch up on my blog and go out to get the family some Bahn Mi for dinner and did some street photography as the train leaves at 2200, but we need to be out of the office when it closes at 1930. I thought the streets were busy during the day but tonight the swarms of bikes and people has reached epic, biblical proportions and I'll be glad to leave it all behind. After getting a taxi to a different train station to the one we arrived from Danang, I was expecting something ten times worse than Danang station since it's a much bigger city, however things are a lot more calmer here but still confusing. A nice local saw me holding the Chapa Express voucher and showed me the sign that
said "Chapa Express" and there is the ticket office. Well I thought it was the ticket office until the guy motioned for me to sit in the passenger waiting area. After sitting there for 5 minutes, it didn't feel right not having a proper ticket like everyone else, so I asked the Skinny Controller (every station has a lady dressed in a long satin tunic which is very incongrous with the grimy station surrounds) and pointed me the main ticket office. As I was waiting in line, another helpful local told me follow him and before I knew it, I was back to where I started to where a man was standing in the darkness with a white envelope with our tickets in it. It felt like dejavu at Ho Chi Minh Airport of never quite being directed to the right place. I'm simply amazed I've got my family everywhere and on time. The planning was meticulous, exciting and, at times, arduous. After 9 months in the making I have given birth to a fantastic cheap holiday. An organised tour would've been more than double the price. We are directed to our carriage and berth by the man who had
our tickets (go figure) and we all heaved a sigh of relief. Not because we had made it after such a long day, but after telling the kids not to expect anything better than the Reunification Express, we are greeted by a very clean, cosy, romantic berth. There is a lamp shade, bottled water for everyone, wafers, biscuits, comb and toothbrush kits as well as slippers for everyone. Dog tired and fell asleep straight away despite the air conditioning not working very well, making it very stuffy.
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