When it came time to board the train for our journey back to Hanoi, we walked on the dimly lit platform at the Lao Cai train station to find the train car that we’re supposed to be on. Fortunately there was only one train in the station that was about ready to leave, so there was no mistake of getting on the wrong one.
After finding our train car and cabin, Kristi and I started to settle inside our cabin for the overnight journey. The layout of the cabin was similar to the one we occupied on the way to Lao Cai a couple of days earlier, a small cabin with four bunk beds that were designed more for Asian-sized passengers (less than 6-ft tall). We only purchased two seats, so we would be sharing the cabin with two more people. When we got to our cabin, there was noone else there yet, so in my mind I was hoping that may be we got lucky that the other two seats were not occupied for this trip (like on air flights, sometimes the middle seat next to you might not be occupied so you could stretch a little bit). But no such luck as few minutes later a couple of gentlemen in their 50s came into the cabin to take the remaining two bunk beds.
After getting their luggage stowed under the bunk beds, one of the gentlemen said hi and introduced themselves to us. His name was Eyal, and the other gentleman was Avi. They were from Tel Aviv, Israel, and they were business partners who were in the middle of a three-week trip in Southeast Asia, visiting Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. They were still in the beginning part of their trip — Sapa was the first destination in their itinerary to visit. They said they did many treks to the villages like what we did, and they also did whitewater rafting. I didn’t know that there was an option to do that activity in Sapa area.
From Sapa, Avi and Eyal were going back to Hanoi and after spending a day there, they would continue down to Central and South Vietnam before continuing on to Siem Reap in Cambodia and ending their trip with some time at the beach in Phuket, Thailand. So it sounded like they had quite a packed itinerary for their trip. I asked if they’re traveling independently. Eyal said it was sort of independent, as they were not part of any bigger group, but all of their travel arrangements were done by their travel agent.
We had many hours to spend in the train on the way to Hanoi. So the conversation continued with us sharing our travel experience so far, which drew their interests as we had gone to Thailand and Cambodia before coming to Vietnam. Eyal said that he’s been to Thailand before, but not to Cambodia yet.
They also shared about their family. Eyal had a family with three daughters back home. He showed us the photos of his daughters. This trip was meant to be a ‘scouting’ trip to check out the places before possibly coming back again to visit with his wife and daughters. He wanted to make sure he knew the places and activities that they would enjoy. Avi said he had two grown children, and his wife didn’t really like traveling, so that’s why he went with his friend for the trip.
After chatting for some time, it’s time to get some rest and we each occupied our little bunk bed to try sleeping for several hours before reaching Hanoi. This time I was able to get more sleep time than during the trip from Hanoi to Lao Cai, probably because I was already tired after doing the trek during the day. Few hours later we were woken up by some noises and feeling the train slowing down. Apparently it stopped a couple of times at stations near Hanoi. So we knew it’s getting closer. Avi was up before everyone else, and when I got up and saw him already sitting and reading a book, he smiled and offered me a breathmint as he took one himself; that was a good way to freshen up after the rough sleep in a moving train.
Once we arrived in Hanoi, we bid each other goodbye, and we continued on our trip with the next segment of our journey.
I took the photo below from the hallway outside our cabin just before the train started to move. Avi and Eyal were on the left, and Kristi was on the right. You can see the small size of the cabin that we occupied. We didn’t get to occupy the whole cabin for ourselves, but instead we had good conversation with travelers from other part of the world.