Train Journey: Hong Kong to Hanoi
7:20-9:30 HK – Guangzhou
11:20-3:30 Guangzhou – Nanning
18:10-05:30 Nanning – Hanoi
We knew we were in trouble when mum got caught trying to smuggle 6 boiled eggs into China and got taken aside for questioning. But that was only the beginning. In the race against time between our train departures in Guangzhou, where all of China suddenly emerged in front of us in the taxi line, we were forced to take an illegal taxi (“hei di”). The driver, who had promised to do the 50 minute journey in 30, screeched off and immediately bypassed red lights and swung onto the oncoming traffic on the wrong side of a highway. All of this taking place in a beaten up car with no seatbelts. We were all quivering wrecks when we arrived at the station 25 minutes later.
Due to the speedy success of our first illegal tax in Guangzhou, we decided to repeat the process in Nanning. Alas! The driver of our second “hei di” never turned up and in exasperation, our taxi coordinator, who could not drive, ushered us into a car and careened off down the highway. Only to stop 5 minutes later after realising he had no idea how to get there. He slapped his head in frustration. This clearly led to a moment of clarity as he got out of the car and purposefully began flagging down taxis and shouting at them until one agreed to take us to the station. A job well done.
Nanning to Hanoi. The final train journey. We had a small and cosy cabin for the four of us, that was about the width of dad’s arm span. It was actually pretty comfortable and the rhythm of the train soon rocked us all into a deep sleep… “HEY! Hey! Get out!!” was accompanied by loud knocking on our cabin door. Utterly confused and disoriented by sleep, we gathered all our belongings together and clambered out of the train for the second time that night. We had reached Vietnamese border control after going through Chinese immigration 2 and a half hours earlier. The outpost really was in the middle of nowhere. After the officials collected the passports of all the passengers, took them into a back room and began calling select passengers in, I began to get excited at the opportunity at bribery. I mean what better place than an immigration outpost in the middle of nowhere at 1am? Sadly it was not to be and our entire entourage traipsed back onto the carriage not a penny lighter.
And so, at dawn, we pulled into Hanoi and our adventure really begins.