I was in Da Nang, visiting a city that had been home to my parents but a totally alien place to me. I had planned to stay at a hotel, but my relatives had insisted that I should stay with them, and I had yielded to them out of courtesy. That was always my problem, too much courtesy.
My room was on the third floor on one of the busiest streets of the city. The deafening din was too much to bear, and I was in an unflagging state of irritation. I longed to be relieved of the heat, the noise, and the tacky affluence of my cousins. As if punished for feeling miserable, I fell sick for two days, lying exhausted on a pink bed with matching pink pillows and blankets in a pink room complete with pink curtains, while the strident cacophony was constantly rolling in from the street below.
At last I recovered enough to continue my trip to Hanoi, where I had never set foot to. I could have flown there, but in a fit of adventurousness I decided to take a train. It was going to be my first train experience in Vietnam, and later on I would wonder if the novelty somehow could compensate for my discomfort. But then it was another story.