To get from Hanoi to Hue, I took an overnight train. It was the first time I’d spent the night on a train, and while I wasn’t expecting the grand splendour of the Orient Express, I did expect it to be a little swisher… and less eventful.
The train was huge and our carriage contained a series of cabins, a wash area and a couple of toilets. All the first-class ticket holders were assigned a cabin, which could hold up to four people. There were no male-only or female-only cabins, so everyone was mixed together, and if you were travelling in a group, you weren’t necessarily with your friends.
The cabins were teeny and super sparse with two metal bunk beds on either side with thin mattresses, a thin pillow and a sheet. Between the bunk beds was a metal table. There were no ladders to get up to the top bunk and no locks on the door. So much for the luxury of first class.
These were nothing like the overnight compartments you see in the movies, and about as far removed from the cabin Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint shared in North by Northwest as you can imagine.
Out in the corridor, a woman with her toddler daughter was having to sleep in a broom cupboard beside the wash basins, surrounded by cardboard boxes that the adorable little girl kept throwing onto the floor of the carriage.
In our teeny cabin, my three other cabin-mates and I squeezed ourselves in, artfully manoeuvring ourselves and our luggage inside. I was relieved to find I’d been allocated the bottom bunk – thankfully no pitiful attempts to haul my ass up onto the top bunk for me.
My cabin-mates and I sat down to a cramped takeaway meal, chatting about our lives and travel experiences to while away the time as random people we didn’t know popped their heads inside our cabin to say hello. It wasn’t long before we heard about the mouse in a cabin a few doors down from us, apparently someone had spotted the rodent running across the floor.
We checked our cabin, but it appeared to be mouse-free and I thought no more about it until I went to sleep. With no lock on the door, I curled myself around my valuables as I didn’t feel comfortable leaving them lying around at the foot of my bed.
I’d just started to nod off, when I felt something brush past my head. I yelped and leapt out of bed at breakneck speed towards the door (how I didn’t wake my cabin-mates is beyond me).
Cowering by the door, my heart pounding, I switched on my phone’s torch and ran it past my bed. Nothing. I flashed the light over the floor and surrounding area. Again, nothing.
Calmer, I got back into bed, telling myself it was just my imagination and that I’d been spooked by the news of the mouse further down the carriage. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep.
The following morning I was up and awake before dawn. For some reason, my cabin-mates and I mistakenly thought we were getting off the train at 6am (turned out to be closer to 8.30am). I was super tired and blurry eyed, and I drowsily got dressed and ready for the day, marvelling at the beautiful sight of the sun rising across the Vietnamese countryside.
As the time wore on, we realised we weren’t getting off the train any time soon so I settled in to read my book. It was only then that I realised my bed, around the outline of where my body had lain, was covered in small little droplets. So was the table and the floor.
Turned out we’d had a visitor (or two) during the night. The mouse that brushed my head wasn’t a figment of my imagination after all…