The Unity Express spanned the entire country, from the cloud-capped mountains of the north to the tributary deltas of the south, like a giant spine of steel, connecting all major towns and cities. Join Benjamin Brown on a journey from Hanoi, the nation’s capital, to the coastal city of Da Nang.
It’s 7pm. Half an hour before the train leaves. Looking around, I notice how sparse my surroundings are, and aside from a few rows of uniform seats and the ticket office, there is no visual in the space On to the clutter. However, neatly tucked away to one side was a modestly sized supermarket, and with time to spare, I ambled away. Casually browsing the shelves, I remembered the advice given to me to stock up on supplies, as the food trolleys on board had sickness and salmonella Risk.
I returned to the dingy car with an assortment of sweets, including kLl_1EB9o mè x xEEDEDng and super chewy sesame peanut butter. Found the train already pulling into the station. Another phrase popped into my head: “Try to get to the station in time, as the sleeper trains all leave early”. With that in mind, I strode through the crowds to the platform, deftly avoiding a screaming baby who was curled up on the polished On the marble floor.
There was air where there should have been steps, and I was trying rather hard to drag myself onto the train. I barely had time to gather my belongings and what was left of my dignity when a shrill bell rang, which indicated to the passengers that The train is ready to leave.
With the wheels really starting up, the train began to glide between shantytowns and concrete apartment buildings as the city gave way to green country pastures The speed of the train is also slowly increasing. The 1,726-kilometre Hanoi-Saigon Railway (also known as the Trans-Indian Railway) was completed in 1936 and initially ran on the What was then French Indochina, 20 years after the separation of North and South, was unified again in 1976 by the Unification Express, which unified the country’s railways. At that time, Hanoi to Saigon took 40 hours and 20 minutes. Fortunately, however, I was able to travel to Da Nang by the Southeast III Railway in 16 hours and 38 minutes.
In a narrow corridor, past a winding line of Vietnamese passengers, I finally found my cabin. Pulling open the sliding door, I felt a sense of relief to see the cabin empty. Setting my things aside, I began to take stock of the room. Swooshing opposite each other were two bunk beds, a small table and a lamp by the far window. Looking closer, I also noticed the narrow shelves built into the wall above each bed, as well as a small nightlight and a separate electrical outlet . It’s hardly luxurious living, but it’ll do.
Unpacking my essentials, I was reminded again of the advice that, as a precautionary measure, it’s best to keep all valuables tethered at night to a certain stuff on. With that in mind, I chose to sleep in the bottom bunk, with my belongings safely strapped to the bedpost. In addition, reaching the top bunk required upper body strength, as there was only a single step ladder to haul the entire weight of the body instead of a ladder . Satisfied with my work, I lay down and luxuriated in the pleasant quiet of my new surroundings. Closing my eyes, I was on the verge of sinking when I heard a rat on the cabin door.
“Hello, may I come in?” , a ghostly voice from the other side of the partition asked. I reluctantly plucked up a half-hearted courage and said, “Of course, of course.” Forcefully moving the sliding door aside, almost breaking it, a tall, moderately built, middle-aged gentleman showed me in the doorway has made his presence known.” Chào, I’m Rico, nice to meet you.” Hello, my name is Ben, where are you going?” .” You mean where am I going?” , Rico replied in what sounded like a Latin American accent, but I knew it was probably Swahili.” Yes”, I replied succinctly.” I’m going to Hulu”, he replied. Flabbergasted, I said, “But isn’t that just north of Da Nang?” “It’s north, yes, but I got off early”, Rico explained with some frustration.” Oh, I see, my bad, I thought the train was going straight to Da Nang without stopping”.
The beginning of the conversation was as shocking as the train itself. Establishing a mutually agreeable silence, I left Rico to go about his own business, that is, to sort out and sift through his A wide array of electronics. After a while, Rico suddenly and unexplainedly broke our unspoken vows and spoke up.” You know in Brazil, where I’m from, I’m a Michelin starred chef”, he claimed.” Which is why I wanted to go to Hulu, you know, because the best food in the country comes from here, like their steamed rice cakes. Called Banh Beo”, Rico added excitedly.” They also made a great…”
Rico is now waxing eloquent about his past adventures. Intriguingly, though also enviably, I learned that he has now been traveling for a year, putting his work on hold in order to realize his A lifelong dream of exploring Asia one sleeper train at a time.” Rico, I’m pretty tired right now, so I think I’m going to get ready for bed, mind if I turn off the light?” , I said wearily.” No, I have to get up early anyway if I want to make it to the station – by the way, did you know that Hulu is also known for its food…”. .” Night Rico.”
Rico slept soundly, and I tiptoed up the gangway. In the blink of an eye, I stumbled to the nearest bathroom and pulled the door open. Apparently not giving them a caution on arrival was a mistake. After being sternly told that I had to bring my own toilet paper, the facilities were at least extremely rudimentary by Western pampered standards, and I Decided I didn’t really need a bathroom after all.
After washing my face in one of the plain beige tubs in the compartment, I wobbled back to the cabin. By now, night had well and truly fallen, and looking out of the carriage window, the train looked like it was hurtling through an endless tunnel of The matte thickness of the black surround. Being careful not to wake the cook, I walked gently to my bed, and though the blanket was a little rough, the gentle rocking of the train was almost It put me to sleep immediately.
Until I was awakened by noises coming from outside the thin partition of the compartment. There was a violent altercation between two passengers. Along with the shouting, I heard what sounded like a muffled cry, and then, almost as soon as the commotion subsided, all the The people are silent. Disturbingly, the situation is reminiscent of Murder on the Orient Express. I figured that if someone was murdered, I’d have to be prepared the next morning to receive an immaculately cut, mustachioed Belgian A visit from a gentleman. As this absurd image hovered in my mind, I fell into a deep and sustained sleep.
The coast is always changing.
When I awoke, the bright sun was pouring in through the small round window of the cabin. Looking across the bunks, I saw an empty bed where my traveling companion had once been. In my exhaustion, I had dozed off at the scheduled Hulu docking station and missed my chance to say goodbye to the charming cook. Relieved of this fact, I turned around and observed the endless verdant landscape outside through the condensation-covered glass. The endless rice fields were dotted with lone buffaloes and the occasional ramshackle hut from a farm or village. Next to the train, I saw two Vietnamese children, a man and a woman, riding their bicycles on the dirt road next to it, staring back at their The nameless face waved.
The train was soon easing towards the coast with mountain views, where I could see empty beaches and lush lush green vegetation. Ahead, the train laboriously climbed the steep slope of the Annamis Mountains. Along a route known as H?i Van (Ocean Cloud) Pass, because of the drifting sea mist in the area, I was taken by train The sight of it arcing on its own enthralled, as if it were chasing its own tail.