Vietnam’s air-conditioned trains are safe, comfortable & inexpensive and therefore the ideal way for independent travelers to get around and see Vietnam at ground level. A train journey is definitely a genuine Vietnamese experience in itself and should be an integral part of every visit to Vietnam. Another plus is meeting Vietnamese people as traveling by train is their way of overcoming the large distances within their country.
Inexperienced travelers sometimes think they’ll save time by using flights. In fact, an overnight train ride from Hanoi to Hué or Danang actually saves time compared to flying, because the train leaves Hanoi city center in the evening and arrives in Hué city center the next morning. But it is more than that: The train journey is a genuine Vietnamese experience and “flying is a wasted opportunity”. That is approximately what we had read and heard from other travelers. It was obvious that we did not want to miss out on this experience.
Having bought our tickets a couple days in advance, we made the best of our last day in Ho Chi Minh and arrived at the train station in the evening, entirely exhausted.
We quickly found our wagon and 4-bed compartment we shared with two Vietnamese women. Conversationing turned out unexpectedly difficult and we had to use our hands and feet to communicate. Our guide book and map were also helpful to point out where we had been and where we were about to travel. Both seemed very interested in our journey and our lives and it was a pity that communication was so cumbersome.
As Vietnamese are usually early risers, the lights went out soon after and the monotonous rumbling of the tracks had us sleeping in no time at all.
The next morning before we even realized what was going on the train came to a stop and both ladies left the compartment in a hurry. We just started wondering where we were and why the two women had left in such a hurry and not even said goodbye! Then we realized they had left all their luggage in the compartment with us and we figured they were coming back.
Just a couple minutes later they returned. They had visited a small market or food booths outside the train and had brought back breakfast. Kind as they were and assuming that these two whitee-westerners have no clue of where to get breakfast they brought us breakfast back as well!
So there we were sitting in a train at 6 o’clock in the morning and eating warm corn on the cob and strange pastry with 2 Vietnamese women who kept looking at us anxiously to see if we approved of their food choice 🙂
We figured that these must be some of those genuine Vietnamese experiences we had been hoping to anticipate.
We will admit that we were not particularly hungry and our breakfast time is typically 2 or 3 hours later in the day, but in some situations you will just not dare to refuse an offer as kind as this one.
The trip continued trough amazing landscapes which kept changing as we went along. For people used to traveling by train we should point out, that traveling in Vietnamese trains is an entirely different story than what you are used to. It has nothing in common with whizzing through a landscape with close to 300 kilometers per hour. It is much more a train dawdling along through the countryside at 50-80 kilometers an hour, stopping every now and then. We would say you travelling at just the right pace to be able to take in the landscape as you are going along:
After a short morning rain shower the weather cleared up and we even got some blue skies:
Don’t we look amazing for sleeping in a bunk bed and performing absolutely no hygiene? 🙂
Of course there are toilets on the train. Some even in Western style…
Some more impressions from along the way:
Interesting fact: The trains between Saigon & Hanoi are sometimes referred to as the Reunification Express by guide books and tourist agencies, although there is no single train of this name. The line was completed by the French in 1936 and trains linked Hanoi to Saigon until 1954, when Vietnam was divided into north and south and the railway was cut. The trains resumed on 31st of December in 1976, unifying the country once more.
In the afternoon we arrived at Danang train station. From here it was only an hours ride to our next site, Hoi An. Find out all about this beautiful place in our next post 🙂This entry was posted in Asia, WorldMap