-  Diary of an Adventure   -  Vietnam Adventure

Reunification Train (Saigon to Hanoi)

Before heading to the train we stopped at Annam Gourmet Market for picnic style meals of cheese, pate and nuts to last us for the 1700km, 36 hour train journey to Hanoi.

Cabin bunks booked (two bunks in a 4 berth sleeper), with the assistance of the hotel ensured that we at least started the journey with valid tickets. Thunder and pouring rain for the taxi ride through the city to the station. That there was only one train made life simple and there was plenty of assistance to help the obvious tourists find their berth.

Sheets, a brown duvet and pillow (clean if threadbare) on the thin mattress our home, shared with a young man heading to Hanoi and an elderly lady who went straight to sleep and disappeared during the night. She was replaced by a business man, who in turn was replaced by an elderly gentlemen. All exceptionally polite. Conversation difficult and halting.

The train didn’t work for photos as the windows are misted from the air conditioning and much of the journey runs between high growth that blocks the views. That said, the scenery was ever changing with a bunch of construction going on for new roads. Backyards hosting skinny chickens and occasional pigs. A variety of tombstones and one military graveyard filled our window horizon. Chinese style temples and church spires sporadic. Waterlogged fields everywhere, surrounded by lakes and canals. Predictable lonesome water buffaloes ankle deep.  

Trolleys of fast food and drink were constantly moving through the train. The coffee, shaved ice with some sort of coffee syrup, which we skipped. Settling for plenty of water and the occasional beer we could get at the main stops. Food was available a couple of times a day. Plastic trays with rice served with some sort of meat looking thing, a bit of green veg, sauce and Pho. One of the meals also had tofu, pickled egg.

Creaking with the soft weary sigh of grandma’s couch on the patio. Bounce, with a sway, emphasising each undulation of the track. Our cabin, a magnet for passing people who stopped to converse or merely look at us. Announcements over the intercom, a form of ‘Rap’.

The train is old with a rudimentary effort to keep it clean. The toilet facilities basic. Grateful for the water and soap and blast of air from the open window.

Ticket cost Vdg 1285000 ($128.00) each. The top bunk is less expensive than the bottom bunk. 36 hours is a long time! Plus two more hours of darkness before sunrise at Hanoi station. And check in for our accommodation only at 14:00. A slow morning ahead of us still. 

In his time Jan has been an electronics, nuclear and power system engineer, a strategist, a humanitarian and an artist. A career path linked by creativity and innovative thinking. Initially trained at the Johannesburg College of Art, Jan has won numerous international awards and has exhibited nationally and internationally. He can be found in his studio ‘Jandreart’ located at Thesen Harbour Town, Knysna.


  • A-M&George

    What an adventure!!!
    You thanks for sharing.
    Enjoy and just drink everything in!!!!

    October 19, 2017
  • A-M&George

    Thank you !!!! …you thanks? Maybe ancient grammar 🙂

    October 19, 2017
  • Ann Raats

    Dearest Jan and Terry

    You must have arrived tired and hungry and needing a shower.

    This lack of filling food must be a problem – can you introduce a few noodles or rice and see what effect it has on your sugar? if the count is still low it may be possible every 2nd day or so. Worth a try I’d say.

    Enjoying you adventuring as you put togther your plans for the net few days.

    Love you both so take care of yourselves

    Blessings Mom

    October 19, 2017

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