The Hassan's

Uncle Ho and
Chairman Mao

World Tour '98

(Read Other First Person Travel Stories)

Hi from Hue!

First off this report may be coming in two parts. The problem is the first two reports from Bangkok and Saigon had problems and we lost everything before it got sent.

We left Saigon on a 21 hour ride to Hue. We had sleeping berths and found we shared the compartment with a nice Vietnamese couple. Their English was non-existent but we had a good time. We weren't quite sure what to expect with the Vietnamese train but it really turned out to be quite nice. The compartment had great air-conditioning - an absolute must in that it has been  90 degrees and 90% humidity everyday. They served meals that were about as good as you might expect given the conditions. The toilets were kept spotless (maybe an overstatement), but they were only the squat style which can be quite a challenge on a moving train.

The scenery along the way was great. We moved between lowland farms, mountains and the seacoast. The section between Danang and Hue through the mountains that ran right down to the sea was fabulous. It also made it clear why the railroad did not really operate between 1954 and 1976. Everywhere you turn now the people are friendly so the train runs well.

The train we were on was the Reunification Express and it made only four stops in the 21 hour run - it would continue on to Hanoi to complete a 36 hour journey. It moved much faster that we expected and was really smooth. No trouble sleeping with the soft roll and clacking of the tracks. At the stations there were hawkers selling about anything you might imagine, but they had a line between their stands and the train that they were not allowed to cross and this removed the hassles you might have expected.

We arrived in Hue in the late afternoon and finally discovered that we had been the only Westerners on the train. We had looked for others in Saigon and thought there must be some, but there weren't. The train is not the option chosen by the backpackers (too expensive) or the tour groups (too slow), so there is another strong recommendation for taking it. We came out of the station and found ourselves in another world. This is Vietnam as you would want it to be.

End Part A
- Lois & JOHN

Copyright 1999 Lois and John Hassan

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