clean dirty clean

We have to leave the comforts of our beloved Sofitel Metropole hotel in Hanoi for the hellish Vietnam train system to Sapa. Our conierge tells Emily someone will meet us on our train with her return ticket, of course that never happens, fortunately she will be reimbursed by the Sofitel when she gets back.

We get to the train station in Hanoi and there is a flurry of activity, we are the dear in the headlight suckers and as soon as they take our tickets some crackhead looking kid takes Emily's giant rolling duffle bag and leads us to our train which is hidden behind another train. Rolling our luggage over the tracks and keeping up with Opiumboy is a challenge. He leads us into our jail cell sized cabin and demands 50kDong, I look at Emily and she thinks that is absurd. I offer him 20k he refuses and demands 50k, I cave and offer 30, again he refuses. Emily tells me to drop the money on the bunk and ignore him, he picks up the money and slams it on the bunk and demands 50k. Emily tells me not to give a penny more, I oblige totally confused. He finally takes the 30k, he was bluffing the whole time, Emily would be a hell of a poker player, and now I understand why so many Vietnamese are champion poker players.

The train to Sapa is ghetto as hell, the "AC" in each "cabin" brings in any smell around i.e. farts, cig smoke, and exhaust. The cabin on the train is bout the size of a small prison cell made up of 2 bunk beds (that is two cot sized beds stacked on both sides with about enough room for 2 people standing between them back to back, tight). They supply you with 4 bottles of water and a couple loaves of sweet bread. The cabin has an overall post ww2 dirty grimey look and feel (think midnight express turkish train). I find hair on my supplied pillow, I grab it and drop it elsewhere. I'm too damn tired and suck it up then go to sleep. We all think this would be a perfect place to bust out a personal sleeping bag had any of us bought one.

As the train departs from Hanoi we roll by families in what could be called homes. They literally have no back wall such that they could reach out and almost touch the passing train (reminds me of a blues brothers scene). I wake several times throughout the night, Jess keeps going to the room with the hole in the floor, aka restroom. It's akin to a solitar confinement torture room, I hope I don't have nightmares about it later. Jess is getting progressively sicker and is sneezing alot. We finally reach Sapa early next morning.

We arrive at a horrible hotel none of you should ever spend a dime in called the Cat Cat hotel, F the lonely planet for recommending it. The hotel has no tv, ac, wastebins, the shower sink and toilet are all one room (prison style), the towells are paper thin and small, the 1 tp roll you get is like cray paper, the desk has no knobs to open it, the windows don't stay open, and there are cockroaches.

Ok more on Sapa later, gotta run looking forward to coming home but now have to catch a plane to Cambodia wish me more luck. This time I'm not messing around and am going to shell out a little extra for a guide and a decent hotel.
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