Soft sleeper with air con, Saigon to Danang. 7 pm (it gets pitch black at 6 pm – there is no day light savings in the tropics) on a hot sticky evening – drenched with sweat. Longing for the air con.
The compartment is small – 2 uppers and 2 lowers. The air conditioner surges – no air. Maybe when the train starts.
4 cold Ba Ba Bas. Hoping for some relief, I press one to my chest. Bill, “You’re going to warm your beer.” What to do? Lower my body temperature or drink cold beer? Cold beer it is.
2 young Vietnamese men hop on the top bunks. It must be 20 degrees warmer up there.
The train moves. The windows won’t open and the train doors are locked – feels like a stifling death trap. Should we leave our compartment door open hoping for air? One roommate slams the compartment door and stares at the air vent. This is like waiting for water to boil.
It is dark outside – we settle into a game of cards, Ritz Crackers, Laughing Cow and warming beer.
The surging air conditioner begins to throw off a little cool air. Is the compartment getting cooler or it is our soaked clothes?
We are rocking and rolling at 30 miles an hour. A sleeping pill and a few hours of restless sleep brings the dawn of a new day. A rooster on board begins to crow. The hallway comes to life. The smell of urine penetrates our compartment (this one is for you Marie).
Vietnam at it’s finest – the old way – rice paddies, water buffalo, field workers in conical hats, every shade of green imaginable.
6 hours to go.