“I like trains. I like their rhythm, and I like the freedom of being suspended between two places, all anxieties of purpose taken care of: for this moment I know where I am going.”
― Anna Funder
After the lessons learned in Hanoi, Vietnam, and the time needed to absorb them, it was time to move on to the next part of my adventure. Granted, my timeline had now changed since I was cutting my time short in Hanoi. I made a mad dash to change reservations and decide how I was going to make my way to the next stop: Da Nang, Vietnam. I kept repeating to myself I think I can, I think I can.
Growing up (as mentioned in an earlier post), “The Little Engine That Could” was my favorite book as a child. It has shaped my life in more ways then I knew until this trip. Beyond just my affinity for trains, it has given me the inclination to never give up, because I can get where it is I want to go. I had been told about the overnight train in Vietnam and it was a no brainer that this would be how I would arrive in my next locale.
There are several options when taking the train from Hanoi to other parts of Vietnam. Do you want a seat, a sleeper, size of the sleeper, hard or soft sleeper, or a private sleeper? I knew I wanted to do the overnight ride, which meant I definitely wanted a sleeper. It is about a 15-hour journey so I would for sure want to snooze some of it. The price differences were not that great so we (Chuck and I) opted for a 4 berth soft sleeper. This meant it also included AC which was a nice thing to have for a more comfortable sleep. We arrived at the Hanoi train station early and had some time to kill. The station was nothing like you would picture, it was bright and empty. We did have some time to grab some Bahn Mi to take on the train and a few snacks.
It was not long and we were boarding the train. I was super excited and this question raced through my mind several times, “Why do we not have more trains in the United States??” We made our way to our bunks and we were the only ones in our four-person room. Things were looking up and it was time for us to embark on yet another journey. The bed was good enough for the ride and better than some hostels I have stayed at on this trip. We had our sandwiches and then settled in for some sleep while it was dark and raining. During the night we gained some bunkmates at a stop along the way.
I awoke to the sun shining through the cabin window. Chuck slid open the cabin door to show me the views we were about to see. He had already taken this same path a year ago, so he knew what was to come. I, however, did not. I got up and went out into the car where my jaw immediately dropped. It was the most magical of morning sites I had seen on this trip. The landscape was lush, the sky was blue, the fog was mild and, for the first time, I saw green that was as green as Ireland. The waves were crashing against the rocks, the vines were growing up every structure and tree within reach, and the clouds danced on the horizon. The sun was bright and the sky was clear, but there remained a light drizzle of rain which just caused everything to sparkle in the rays of the sun. For just a few minutes, everything else on my mind just disappeared.
We continued this majestic ride for about another hour before reaching our destination. Hai Van Pass is just a spectacular place and my only regret from this part of the trip is not taking the time after arriving to motorbike up and spend more time there. But we arrived and it was time to make my way to my hostel, where I would be staying for the week in Da Nang.
I would highly recommend the overnight train as your best form of travel in the country of Vietnam. I had hours to think with just the sound of the train as it made its way along the tracks. I slept better than I had in weeks on the train, as my mind seemed to have let go of most thoughts, even if just for a brief moment in time. Waking up to the views of Hai Van Pass and the eastern coast of Vietnam wiped away all worries and fears. For a small span of time, I only knew my destination and was not concerned with the what-ifs of getting there.