That’s a 4-person sleeper cabin up there. It’s, um, cosy. There are no ladders to the top bunks, so you’ve got to MacGyver your way up using the random little footholds (one to the left of the door). Our guide told us not to trust the food onboard, so we got takeaways delivered to the station (highly recommend this) and bought snacks and beer too. There’s a tiny table in the middle (where the water bottle etc are) and there is a plug point under it. Reading lights. Slightly stained sheets… take a sleeping liner like I did (thanks Hoang Anh!) and have a beer or two. Don’t forget loo roll (the loos will go a bit Glastonbury in the middle of the night, but they’ll get cleaned up at some point, hopefully), hand sanitiser, baby wipes (you won’t be having a shower), plenty of bottled water… and have a beer. Seriously. Why?
Cockroaches, people. Running up the walls. By your bed. By your FACE. Have a beer and it’ll help ya sleep. Probably.
Come morning, though, the scenery rushing past the window just outside your cabin door (the corridor becomes a greyed-out, oddly-wakeful-for-lack-of-sleep, viewing gallery from around 6am) makes you realise why you got the train and not the plane. Paddy fields, towns, grand tombs at odds with the rural surroundings… they jostle against each other, repeating in threes, the workers barefoot and up to their knees in watery field… you get the feeling that it’s been this way forever. In a strange way, that morning was one of my favourite of the trip, despite being knackered, unwashed and possibly infested with cockroaches. There’s nothing like relief coupled with quiet contemplation.
Also, this breakfast at the hotel in Hue did a lot to help: