On the bus from Hoi An, I met Raymond, an Englishman, who was heading to Nha Trang like me and was doing a 3 month trip. When we got to the train station, he tried to get the 10:30 AM train that I was going on but there were no more seats. It turns out that this is the first week of summer vacation so lots of Vietnamese are traveling. He was able to get the 1PM train though.
While we were waiting for my train to leave, an Estonian couple named Carmen and Jack--Janno--reunited with Raymond. They had been working in Australia for over a year and now were finishing up their SE Asia travels before going to New Zealand for some more work. They were on my train, but in the sleeper carriage where I was in the soft seat carriage. Although our train was scheduled to leave at 10:30 AM and arrive by 8:30 PM, it turned out that the train was over two hours late. We also met a Chinese couple who were apprehensively touring Vietnam, and they said that unless they spoke, many took them to be Vietnamese.
After boarding my train carriage, the A/C was turned off and our carriage soon became hot as a sauna. Even the Vietnamese were sweating. When a lady came through selling fans, she was immediately sold out. Perhaps a relative of hers has the control of the A/C in our carriage. The sweat on my arms began to pool into large drops all along my arms and as soon as I wiped them off with my bandana, they reappeared. Lacking any more fans, many started to use their magazines as fans. This went on for about 45 minutes until we started to leave the station. All of the Vietnamese cheered when the A/C started to work and I joined them.
Of all the train travels I have done during this trip, this has been about the worst with the beginning overheated carriage, overcrowded carriage with people carrying so many extra bags and some people sitting on little plastic stools along the carriage walkway. The "soft" seats were really not all that soft and they seemed short to me so I could never quite get comfortable and had to get up occasionally to walk about.
After an hour of travels the A/C was so powerful, many began getting blankets from the carriage attendants. Talk about extremes.
Along the way, we continued to go in and out of a terrific storm complete with lightening and thunder.
My planned 8:30 PM arrival would now be around 11PM
As we pulled into Nha Trang, I figured I would have to take me to the Axar Hotel that I had listed on my itinerary, but had not made reservations. From the Lonely Planet guides, it looks like there is a real concentration of cheap hotels in that area. Outside the train station while fending off some of the touts, I spotted Carmen and Janno who told me they had a terrible ride since their cabin area was overflowing with families who doubled up on the bunks with their small children.
Since they were heading to the same general area, we agreed to share in the cost of a taxi or 50,000 dong each. Fortunately the taxi driver knew exactly where both of our hotels were and we were each dropped off.
The Axar Hotel staff was still awake and booked me for two nights at $15 USD per night after taking my passport. The room was very clean and comfortable, had A/C, hot water showers, and CNN. What more do you need after all. It turns out I needed to use my earplugs for the first time since we were near the bars that were staying open late to watch the World Cup until 3:30 AM.