Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hungry in Vietnam - Goodbye Sapa

One thing I learned about my travel in Vietnam is that you really never know what to expect. I've been in so many situations when I paid for one thing and ended up with something totally different. When traveling, especially backpacking, I've learned that I have to be ready for the unexpected.

The day Jeremy and I were to leave Sapa, we ran into some friends we met in Hanoi. With flustered faces, they ran to us and said, "Sinh Cafe screwed us over. We're not getting sleepers and we're stuck with soft seats." Jer and I just looked at each other and we knew that we were going to get screwed over too.

(Sinh Cafe is a Lonely Planet favorite amongst the hundred backpacker tour agents in Hanoi. And even though they have been said to be one of the most reliable sources to train tickets and weekend trips, we've only heard bad things from fellow backpackers. Now I know why their nickname is Sh*t Cafe.)

Jer and I ran to our guesthouse to hear word on our supposed sleeper tickets for our train ride back. The guy in charge pretty much snubbed us off and told us, "Sorry we tried so hard to get you sleepers, but they're completely booked. You get soft seats." And that was it. It was no use making a scene, because it's not my style and the Sunday trains back to Hanoi were completely booked. We just knew somewhere down the line some lucky guy just made an easy $5. Whatevers!

In France, "C'est la vie!" is the saying. In Southeast Asia, it's more like, "It could be worse!" So with the right attitude in mind, my brother and I were ready for our 9 hour train trip back to Hanoi.

screwed with soft seats
So here are our soft seats. Not that bad. The seats reclined and we were hanging with the locals. If the locals can do it, I'm sure we can too.

train potty
I seriously love the train squatties. Not as bad as you think. I've been in worse. Here in the states actually. Have you ever been to a port-a-potty while fishing??? Anyways, the key to a successful visit to the train potties is to hold your breath and make sure to balance. Here's where the "asian squat" comes in handy.

train sink
I find the sinks on the train funny. Their function? I don't really know. Because I'd wash my hands in the sink, only to find that I'd antibacterialize my entire arm once I got back to my seat.

our blessed sleepers
In the middle of the night, around 1 or 2 a.m., several workers woke us up and asked if we wanted to "pay extra" for their worker sleepers in the back. For $6 each, Jer and I were willing to pay up for the simple luxury to lie down. I couldn't be any more thankful.

motobike osmosis
After several major delays on the train, we finally reached our Hanoi train stop. My eyes were still dry and I was still doped up on dromamine, so my brother took the following shots. It's amazing how beautiful the motorbike can be. We just stopped and stared at the thousands of motorbikes squeezing their way out of a narrow bridge onto a major highway.

motobike parking


Wandering Chopsticks said...

There's very little customer service in the North. I hated bargaining, settling on a price, only to have them say they miscounted and try and charge me more all over again. Argh!

When I went, all the soft sleepers were sold out. So we ended up on hard sleepers. Just a wooden platform. No air conditioning. It was a loud and uncomfortable trip to and from. But my weekend in Sapa was lovely so it was worth it.

Daily Gluttony said...

Hey J! Just finished catching up on your posts--I think you have a second calling as a travel photojournalist/essayist. Beautiful photos & posts, girl. Can't wait to read more. =)

lostinsapa said...

You forgot to mention how the train workers kicked out that old guy in the bottom bunk just so you can have it, and how in the morning we found him sleeping on the the floor right outside our cabin... we are horrible people!

Jeni said...

Wandering Chopsticks...I would take hard sleepers over seats any day. The sleepers we got this night only had a fan but we had no right to complain. The one thing both of us really regret is not making our way out to Bac Ha. I think we would have loved to be more off the beaten path. But all in all, Sapa was the perfect getaway. Looove Sapa more than Halong Bay.

Daily Gluttony...haha...I'd love to work for Lonely Planet and scout hostels and eat and review. Our dream plan is to open up a guesthouse in some beautiful backpacker haven. I'd be in charge of the guesthouse (like Mr. Wei in Yangshuo) and D would open up a connecting cafe. We'll see...

Lostinsapa...haha...I did forget the fact that in order to sleep in the worker quarters, the workers removed that older worker. First he was unhappy, but then was pretty jolly after seeing some quick dong made.

Chubbypanda said...

Oh gods. Flashbacks to the toilets in Asia. Why!?! Dear gods, why!?!

la dra said...

whoa. you backpackers are tough. more off the beaten path?!


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