Day 9 – Train to Hue/Hue

Friendly / Day 9 of 64 / 18 May

The slamming of the door woke both of us up. It was 7am and we were still on our train from HCMC to Hue. It was breakfast time. The train attendant came in and threw food packages onto the table in the centre of the cabin. On the table were four tom yum flavoured cup noodles and a single meal packet, similar to the ones served on planes. We realised they simply ran out of food packets, leaving us with a weird combination of choices. As it turns out, the Asian syndrome is universal throughout Southeast Asia. As everyone slowly chose their meal, the remaining and best one – the hot packet meal – ended up in the hands of Phuc Anh’s mum.

Having nothing much to do, the morning consisted mostly of us reading and falling back to sleep.

As afternoon rolled by, we were awakened by the loud slamming of the door once again. As if conditioned, we all sat up and got ready for our next meal. This one was more elaborate. Each meal consisted of a food packet, a sealed container of vegetables, an unidentifiable jelly dessert and a tiny cup of water. The main entree was rice with stewed pork and it was pretty amazing. The vegetables, however, were bland and tasted almost of plastic. The jelly was the strangest, as it bore no smell and tasted weirdly sweet with no distinct flavour. Phuc also bought extra dishes from the cart rolling down the hall for the two of us to try. Even his mum began offering us local lychee fruit that they had been carrying since they got on the train. This family is really too sweet.

After lunch, everyone in the cabin had pretty much woken up, and we began chatting. It was interesting because Phuc Anh was curious about our own and Singapore’s stance on various things such as LGBT, human rights, prostitution problems, etc. It really took us by surprise because you wouldn’t expect these kinds of questions from someone who we had just met the day before but it was interesting nonetheless.

Ryan ducked out to smoke and Phuc asked if we both had partners back home. To which I replied that we were both single, and then I proceeded to ask him about his relationship status. Oh boy, how I wish I hadn’t. He opened with him having a wife and an eight-year-old daughter which I thought was great. Then he told me they left. The worst part wasn’t the fact that he told me how much he misses his daughter but it was the expression he wore as he stared out the cabin window, one of a man that lost something irreplaceable, a man who wasn’t whole. “Oh”, was the only thing I could say in reply. Where the hell was Ryan when you needed him.

Being unable to cut the atmosphere in the room, I myself ducked out after awhile to find Ryan. We sat by the food carriage and watched the ocean view as the train wove around the mountains.

At 3.30pm, after exchanging contact information, we bid Phuc Anh and his family goodbye. We boarded a taxi outside the train station and headed to our accommodation, the Traveller’s Nook (8 SGD/night), located inside the walls of the Hue Citadel.

And the horse we rode in on.

Our modest room in our hostel/homestay.

Having dropped our belongings, we headed out – and with advice from Jack, the home’s owner – we ate at a Pho shop around the corner which was supposedly really good. And it was. There is something about sitting on a street corner and having a meal that feels so therapeutic. Watching the townspeople bustle about their day really helps you understand how life in the area is like. We saw three kids, each no older than ten, ride past us on a single bicycle before the pedal came off. Ryan wanted to assist them but I told him we should just wait and watch what they do. Through a series of screwing and kicking the pedal in, they managed to fix the bike somehow. However, they gave the bike two down-pedals instead of alternating ones. Only after more trial and error did these kids manage to beat their bike back into shape. It was at that moment, the both of us felt like we had witnessed a little coming-of-age with these three young boys as they rode off into the sunset.

By this time it was close to 7pm and we headed off to the Hue Walking Street where all the shops supposedly closed later. The 20-minute walk through the neighbourhood and past the waterfront was pleasant.

The street itself, however, felt a little lacklustre. Maybe it was due to us travelling through so many night markets but this one simply felt like nothing special.

We sat down at a cafe/bar to get round two of dinner and enjoyed some local bands performing music.

The music was great and the food was actually pretty damn good. We had some Hue specialities, a burrito-like wrap and some rice-flour appetisers with prawns and beef on top. Sadly I forgot to take a picture of the menu so the names are lost forever.

With that, we took a long, slow stroll back to our accommodation, all whilst discussing social issues in Singapore.

– Sam

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