This is the tally so far: 19 trains in one month.
Hanoi to Saigon makes it the 20th and final train for me.
After a lovely break in Guilin where China Odyssey Tours treated us to some pleasant excursions of the Lijiang River and the countryside, we were back onto the train towards Hanoi. We spent a lightening fast day there where some scavenger hunt items were racked up, but mostly time was spent on work.
While the Trans-Manchurian proved varied, interesting and wild, I have to make this declaration, I heart Vietnam.
The train ride from Hanoi to Saigon was by far my favorite.
The last time I was in Vietnam was 8 years ago, and what delighted me the first time also rang true the second time around.
8 years ago, it was riding on a bus through the hills, and as we snaked around a bend, the bus was enveloped by mist. There’s something about fog that I find sexy. It’s mysterious, caressing, kind of like your lover’s hand, and that’s what it felt like in Vietnam all those years ago. Once we came out the other side of the fog, there was a sheer drop and I gasped out loud at a white, sand beach below, untouched, not a soul’s footprint on it.
The train ride to Saigon does just that, the most breathtaking section is over the Hai Van Pass, between Hué and Danang, where the train runs along the coast past islands, bays, through hills, and drops down to the South China Sea. I was enthralled.
For a train ride that took 35 hours, it felt like 3 and I would do it all over again.
I was inspired to document what I saw and have captured moments in what I call my Love Letter to Vietnam:
We made it.
I initially saw this as a test in endurance, the challenge of finding out if I could even do it at all. In the middle of everything, sleepless nights, changing trains and bizarre border crossings, I discovered the challenge wasn’t the trip at all.
The trip was the trains. Living on them and seeing how others did, including the people who make them run on time or help feed you.
I humbly thank you for reading, watching, but most of all, encouraging me to embark on this adventure.
It was unforgettable!
Thanks to China Odyssey Tours for all our Chinese tours and transfers, and for assisting us with tickets into Vietnam.