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Getting to Bao Yen

“Bao Ha station!”, someone shouted.

Lao CaiThe voice got Ly and I out of bed, quickly packing our stuff. Two minutes later, we were out of the cabin, stumbling our way towards the carriage’s door. Reclining on her desk chair, a sleepy staff reassured us we would be there soon.

The lady offered us a plastic stool to sit down. Ly took the chair and I went to look out the window. It was pitch black outside, nothing but flickering lights from small houses, warehouse, and light post along the track. There was no sign of the station nor would the train stop.

It was 4h45, some seven hours since we left Ha Noi Station. This train is one of four taking passengers nightly from the capital to Lao Cai, a far North province bordering China. More than one hour before Lao Cai is Bao Ha station, where we would have to get off to join our Oxfam colleagues in a disaster relief project in Bao Yen district of Lao Cai Province.


Lao Cai was badly affected by heavy rain followed Kammuri Typhoon early August that brought flash floods, landslides, causing worst localised flooding in 22 years in 11 Northern provinces of Viet Nam. Thousands of farmers lost their main source of incomes from crops and aquaculture.Thousands of farmers lost their main source of incomes from crops and aquaculture. The potential for outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhoea, skin disease and respiratory infections among children is high. Many water sources were submerged and polluted. Total economic loss in Lao Cai was estimated at $US 60 million. It will probably take at least 2-3 years for the affected people in those communes to return to normal life.

Over the next few months, to help improve the situation, Oxfam will support nearly 14,000 most vulnerable villagers in five worst flood affected communes of Bao Yen District to speed up their recovery. This humanitarian project include activities such as providing cash grants to more than 1,300 most affected households to buy nutritious food or other basic needs; distributing maize seeds and fertilisers to 500 farming households for them to restore their livelihoods and farmland, ready for the coming crop; and providing hygiene and sanitation information and support to reduce public health risks from communicable diseases.

We were too bored of waiting so decided to go back to our more comfortable cabin. As we were saying that we should have done that earlier, the lady shouted again to tell us we were finally there…

Bao Ha Station greeted us by a dozen of young men came running towards us, all checking if we would need a ride to town. The crowd drifted off disappointed when we told them we already had a car waiting. Even at this early hour of day, the little station was full of people moving back and forth.

We managed to find our minibus straight away together with its driver who mumbled that he had been waiting for us since 3a.m. He was a very fast driver but managed to avoid most of the holes and bumps, and the remains of the previous landslides. Beautiful green landscape unveiled by dawn and the cool morning air kept us awake throughout the 25km bumpy mountainous road to Bao Yen town.

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