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Full Circle

Day 79: Dong Hoi to Hue

Michael Palin - Full CircleDong Hoi station in a downpour. Little children, wet through, beg at the windows, smiling ever so sweetly, raising their palms out at arm's length until little pools of water form in them. Some other children are chased away by the guard. Catering ladies, middle-aged and motherly, with grey suits and incongruous white frilly aprons, come by with breakfast. This consists of a dry, vermicular collection of noodles sloshed into a bowl, accompanied by a cream wafer. When I ask if there's anything else they look at me pitifully and move on.

Feel a bit dejected. It could be all sorts of things - the weather, the breakfast, lack of sleep after a night being rocked and rolled about on my couchette, or the side-effects of the strong anti-malaria pills which I shall be taking from now until we leave the tropics.

I'm struggling to stuff the cold sticky noodles into my mouth when, with loud protestations, the ladies in grey reappear, seize back my bowl and pour a helping of hot pork broth on top of the noodles, giggling gently, as one might at someone who had tried to eat Weetabix without milk.

From my window I look out on a grey-green, washed-out world of paddy-fields and palm trees. White specks of light fleck the grey as a flock of egrets rises and curls away. A cemetery offers a brief splash of colour, bright blue and green paint peeling off the gravestones. There is an animated game of cards going on in the compartment next to mine. I count nine people squeezed around an up-turned suitcase. Next to that a man with a full-length keyboard across his knee is giving music lessons to a vivacious lady in a pink and black jump suit.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 79
  • Country/sea: Vietnam
  • Place: Dong Hoi
  • Book page no: 116

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