My wife and two kids were eagerly looking forward to a luxurious night rocking along in a sleeper cabin on the train to Hanoi. But a truck rollover on the mountain pass from the mist-shrouded village of Sapa in North-West Vietnam soon threatened that treat. As the 40 minute journey became three hours, our driver refused to be defeated by the blocked roads, squeezing the bus down the mountain in a terrifying series of suicidal cliff-edge manoeuvres.
We eventually careened into Lao Cai just as the train was chugging away. My family slumped to the ground in one desolate teary cluster. We had no food, accommodation or solutions, but I had to lift them. ‘This is real travel,’ I declared. ‘Think of it as though we’re on a great adventure.’
A solution did suddenly present itself in the form of an odd little man yelling ‘Chase the train! We chase the train!’
We were soon surging through the night again, 26 passengers wedged into his mini-van’s 16 seats. My son was sobbing uncontrollably, my daughter declaring her own torture; she hadn’t brushed her hair in hours. The van later arrived at an unlit unmanned rail siding. When the train steamed in for its ninety second stop, we ran along the parallel rail line to find our carriage, throwing ourselves in before it took off again.
Nine hours after leaving Sapa we collapsed into our cabin, my son whimpering, ‘Daddy… if this is your idea of a travel adventure; it’s is the suckiest one ever!’