Blog written on Saturday 17 November
When I asked the woman checking the train tickets how long it would be till the Saigon train arrived she told me to go into the waiting room. She then put her hands together and rested her head on them feigning sleep. I took that to mean be patient and have a rest while you wait.
We waited. We had already been waiting for over an hour. That sort of wait was usual. I don’t think we managed to go anywhere by train without being an hour late. What worried me more was the fact that there had been a train in the station with people already on board for more than an hour and it had not moved. Having no option we waited. When we had done that we waited some more. There was a TV on one of the walls playing a loop of news, weather and adverts. One of the weather reports had graphics showing that between 500mm and 700mm of rain fell in the central region of Vietnam yesterday. A squad of soldiers passed through the waiting room. They were in camouflage with rucksacks and guns. Dressed in jungle green except for the red band around their peak caps and a pair of brown leather sandals hanging from their rucksacks. The graphics on the TV screen showed how a tornado made landfall yesterday. That would explain all the rain I thought. The train waiting at the platform moved backwards a few feet then stopped.
There were announcements in Vietnamese and some locals got up and left. I went to speak to the ticket woman again. ”You go wait” she said pointing back at the waiting room. I went back to the waiting room and waited some more.
After about 3 hours another traveller came across and asked if we were English. In the resulting conversation he said that he had found out from a Vietnamese traveller that spoke some English that there would be no trains today and probably no trains tomorrow. I rang the Vietnamese company that we had arranged tickets through. They said they had not heard of any difficulties and promised to check up. After 30 minutes or so they rang back and we had a frustrating and confusing conversation. Eventually I went to the ticket woman, gave her the phone and got her to speak to them. When I got the phone back I was given a translation of what she had said. No trains at all today and no certainty on when they would run again. The advice we were given was to get a refund for the tickets and get a plane.
We and the other English traveller shared a taxi to the Airport. I spoke to the VietJet booking office. All flights cancelled due to the weather. The first flight would be tomorrow at 7:50. It would cost 1.6 million Dong. I checked 2 other airlines. Same story but higher price so back to VietJet. The price is now 1.8 million Dong. I asked why and was told it was because they had sold another ticket meaning less tickets were left therefore the price went up. Needless to say we bought 2 tickets and then asked if they could recommend somewhere to stay. With a handwritten address in out possession and assurances that it was just outside we set off. Needless to say it started raining. An hour later, after asking directions more times that I care to recollect we ended up at Hotel Princess and booked in for the night. After leaving our bags in what can only be described as a rather sparse room. Armed with the map the hotel gave us we set off set off to find somewhere to eat. We had not eaten since breakfast and given the circumstances some comfort food was needed.
Over an hour later, drenched again we gave up looking, got a taxi and asked them to take us to the only restaurant that Jo could remember from the guide books.
Sitting in the dry with a menu in your hand can not be recommended highly enough. I shall do it on a regular basis fro now on. The restaurant was part of a project to help young people who were deaf. The receptionist was the only one who could speak or hear. We ordered coffee through her. Mine came with the word hello written in the froth. It was the start of a conversation we had written on the back of bills and on paper napkins. It is surprising how direct you can make questions and answers if they are face to face and in written form. It was a splendid meal with entertaining conversations.
We took a taxi back to the hotel where from our room on the 11th floor we could look out and see the airport lit up below us. The windows looked a bit odd. It transpired that the windows had a criss cross of tape on them to reduce the damage if they shattered in the wind. They had also been wired up so that they could not be opened. Setting the alarm for 5:00pm we went to bed.
Sunday 17 November.
When we arrived at the airport the man we had shared the taxi with was stretched across the metal seats trying to sleep. The plane left on time and 50 minutes later we landed at Saigon where Jon and Jill were waiting for us. I cant describe how pleased I was to see them.
Postscript Sunday evening 17 November
That evening I checked the news for flooding in Central Vietnam. It appears that the situation worsened.
The BBC report for Vietnam stated: “Flooding and landslides in central Vietnam have left at least 28 people dead, nine missing and some 80,000 homeless since Friday”
The Independent newspaper reported: “The flooding was widespread in the province, where some 60% to 80% of the areas of Hoi An city and two other districts were submerged,”
Bloomberg reported : “Guests in hotels in the central town of Hoi An were evacuated, according to the government.”
Reuters reported: “In Quang Ngai province, where nine were killed and four people are missing, flood waters rose above a previous peak measured in 1999, submerging many houses” “Flood waters rose quickly after 15 hydro power plants in the central region opened their sluice gates to release water in reservoir protection”
Jo’s facebook post reported: “Wet and flooded in Hoi An and some unfortunate has fallen in river, and broken her leg. We, on the otherhand, have just had cake”