I went on a train…
…and had my first #metoo moment as a solo female traveler. I am luckily fine and was never in any real danger, but it was extremely uncomfortable none the less. But let me start by describing the journey from the beginning.
I had booked a bunk in a 4-bunk compartment on the night train from Saigon to Da Nang. The trip was scheduled to take 17 1/2 hours and left Saigon Railway Station at 7.30 pm. Booking my ticket was extremely easy as I did it online via 12Go.asia. They sent me an e-ticket within a day and I was good to go! The ticket cost 50 dollars.
If I had flown to Da Nang it would have cost me 26 dollars and taken 1 1/2 hour, but I decided I wanted to experience the slow route and was expecting breathtaking sceneries once the sun came up. Also I thought that the trip might afford me the opportunity to meet some locals…and boy it did!
I had chosen the bottom right bunk and upon entering the compartment I was pleasantly surprised to find that the supplied sheets looked clean, although the rest of the train was quite worn and a little dirty.
The toilet was a bit grimy, but luckily my good friend back home had supplied me with toiletseat covers and honestly it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. 🙂
Meeting the locals
I fell asleep easily, despite the bumping and grinding of the train and slept like a baby for 8 hours, waking up at 6 am to views of an abundance of lush green rice paddies and cloud-ensconced mountains in the distance. As I awoke I made eye-contact with a happy looking Vietnamese man in the bunk across from me. It was a really strange feeling, to wake up to this guy staring intently at me while I slept. But Lien as he was called had such a happy look on his face that I immediately felt at ease. He started chatting merrily in a mix of English and Vietnamese and bombarded me with a million questions; Where are you from? Where are you going? Do you like Vietnam? Do you eat chicken?
As the train rolled into Dieu Tri station 6 1/2 hours from Da Nang he jumped off and ran to a makeshift stall to buy two chicken and rice meals to share with me. I told him I would pay, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He then proceeded to pull a bottle of water and a toiletroll(?) out of his luggage and presented them to me as gifts. We ate happily and although the food looked quite bland it turned out to be really tasty!
Unfortunately Lien had to get off the train an hour or so later, but we hugged goodbye and he made sure to write my name on the back of his hand so he would remember it.
Replacing Lien in the bunk across from me was another Vietnamese man who did not speak a word of English. I sent him a smile as he entered and he seemed just as friendly and outgoing as Lien before him. So I relaxed and when he asked if he could take a picture of me I happily agreed. He took a few pictures and then suddenly stood up and came over to my bunk, where I was still under the covers. He sat next to me and asked for a selfie of the two of us, and again I obliged. This however was when things took a turn for the worse.
The guy abruptly grabbed my shoulder and pulled me in, trying to kiss and hug me. I was suddenly confronted with my “good-girl” upbringing and just froze, not knowing how to react. Luckily I snapped out of it and gave him a hard shove and said “NO” as loud as I could. The guy just laughed and grabbed me a bit harder. At this point I began to get a little frightened as we were alone in the compartment and I had no idea who would hear me if I screamed. By now I was shoving and he was hugging, when he suddenly looked at me and said “You have husband?”. I grabbed the lifeline and said, “Yes! And he’s waiting for me in Da Nang!” I pulled out my phone and showed him a picture of a friend of mine to illustrate the very tall husband waiting for me at the station. This seemed to work and the creepy guy went back to his own bunk looking disheartened. I was relieved and also belatedly pissed! Why is it that some men only take no for an answer if you “belong” to someone else? He was, in backing down, not showing me respect but rather my imaginary husband! I would have launched into a long speech on the subject at that point, had he been able to understand me! 😦
Anyway, crisis resolved we journeyed on for 4 hours in awkward silence and when the train pulled into Da Nang station he insisted on carrying my luggage onto the platform and walking me to the entrance of the terminal. I of course hurried off before he got the idea of hugging me goodbye!
I made it!
So here I am in Da Nang at Christina’s local branch. Enjoying the ocean and fresh(er) air after the chaos of Saigon. And despite my one unlucky experience I would definitely recommend the train journey for anyone with the time, as I am sure my creepy guy was an exception to the otherwise amazingly friendly and hospitable Vietnamese. 🙂