The Reunification express from Hanoi to Da Nang – North to South Vietnam. It sounded so majestic! I started imagining a train like the Palace on Wheels in India, interiors done up in colonial style, great food and service as we chugged along great views.
First reality check. Getting tickets on this train wasn’t a click away – you needed to write to a travel agent who then secures a berth for you. “One coupe” I said confidently over email, we were 4 of us and we would have our privacy.
It’s the day of the journey. We’re back in Hanoi after the Halong Bay cruise. We arrive at the bustling Hanoi station, no train there. “You must walk across the railway line”. Sure, can do. We Indians are good at this. We walk several lines, not sure which one it is. We hear a whistle blow and jump into a moving train taking a chance. Luckily this is our train. Oh wait, this is India – 01st class compartment! We settle in for the evening, no food on us, since we assumed we’d buy it on board. The train slowly makes its way into rural Vietnam as the night gets darker.
The pantry car has a toothless old Vietnamese woman who says that she has only noodle broth (pho) and warm beer. Take your pic. Of course, we pick warm beer, the broth looks dishwater-ish. I’ll pass. Maybe there will be a station with steaming food, I imagine. Many rounds of Taboo and warm beer later, we still have no station in sight. Maybe the morning gets better and maybe this wasn’t a great idea after all…
“OH MY GOD. Look outside”. The view has changed overnight. We’re along the cliff, the ocean is below us as wind through tunnels and precipices. To our left is the ocean, and to the right, mountains and paddy fields. Its stunning!
We stop at a station, with literally one dog and a food seller. We finally get food! Sticky rice, brown eggs, baguette and condensed milk.
The most satisfying meal of our life.