Our shoes clomped along the cobbled stones of the alley as we made our way down the side of the Cathedral to join the buzzing devotees milling in the Plaza.
Hanoi has given us so much joy and fun and food and coffee and music and poetry. This city is a poem in itself, stamped onto our hearts, a great treasure chest of beautiful incidents, things glimpsed, a layered strangely laconic lifestyle lived largely among layered slightly laconic buildings, complex tastes and textures, exotic and esoteric, earthy and ethereal, sights and sounds and feelings unique to this place.
The final verse of her poem, as a parting kiss for us, was a typical splash of colour and elan, a performance of Mozart’s Sonata for piano and violin in Bb major in St Joseph’s glorious Cathedral.
We listened delightedly and stumbled from the Heaven of the Holy Church, filled with divine sound and quiet devotion, tumbled into a taxi and bumbled straight to the Hell of the High Temple of hissing steam, crackling electricity and grinding steel, Hanoi Central,
Ga Ha Noi.
Down the platform, passed the guard, sashayed sideways into our carriage and so reluctantly, at 22:20, sniffling into our well used lace hankies we muttered and shuddered and blew air and tooted and shrieked and jolted and rumbled away. The train also left, and we, sadly constrained by the laws of physics, went with it.
We were emotionally distraught and filled with fear and trepidation for as you know, dear reader, our first Vietnamese train trip had been something of a deep freeze nightmare. But, Hallelujah and Hosanna ! The bed was comfortable, the temperature was fine and we slept through much of the most spectacular scenery that Vietnam has to offer. (Mental note: take day train next time).
Our posse on the iron horse were a varied and delightful bunch of oriental hombres and senoritas sinceros. Here is Anh, lying back resting her weary dogs, and her devoted husband Quyen rubbing those tired puppies.
There was a rather good flautist aboard, being admired by his proud and loving family.
There were thoughtful chaps gazing…well…thoughtfully…out the window.
There were cows gazing thoughtfully back at the train.
There was an older gent in pyjamas gazing down at us from on high.
There was a whole lot of gazing going on. Gazing, we find, takes up a lot of one’s time on a long train journey. I gazed at Kristen. She was gazing out the window.
There was a little girl taking photos of the beautiful bays and harbours that dip and sway around the coastline near her beloved home town of DaNang.
The little girl and the elderly gent both liked looking out the window.
Here is a little of what they saw.
There was a man selling weiners on a stick.
Everybody was getting pretty hungry what with all the gazing and excitement.
This lucky fellow was being fed by his Mum.
We had very yummy thinly sliced buffalo with chilli and lemongrass and rice along with crunchy lightly steamed cabbage and soy sauce.
Everybody was happy and smiling.
And so the mighty Reunification Express bore us on, through 27 tunnels (or so I was told), over many, many miles over two nights and a day along a staggeringly beautiful coastline right next to an unbelievably scenic interior, and dropped us safely at Ga Sai Gon where we considered the appalling prospect of leaving Vietnam and began to plot how quickly we might return.