Vietnam By Train: Initial Thoughts On A 15-Day Journey

With expectations set by Chuck Norris movies and '70s folk rock, we set off on a 15-day tour of Vietnam. There are lots of ways to explore this long, thin country. Our choice: The North-South Reunification Railway, starting in the capital city of Hanoi and heading all the way down to Ho Chi Minh City (was Saigon), some 1700 kilometers away.

It's the evening of our fourth day as I write this. Two days in Hanoi, followed by two days in Hue. Tomorrow, we make our way to Da Nang, then on to Nha Trang, and ultimately arriving in Ho Chi Minh City. And then we jump back on the train and retrace our steps for a 33-hour train ride. Because that sounded like a good idea at the time.

But we'll leave the future anxiety of 1.5 solid days on a, er... historical train until we need to face it. Because right now, we're having a lovely time.

The traffic is intense. Motor scooters rule the roadways, and they've little care for concepts like right-of-ways, traffic lanes, pedestrians, sidewalks, or even red lights. There's a definite flow of traffic, and you're either with it or not. The latter is your problem.

And it's hot. Like so hot, we're thinking summers in Phoenix were't so bad after all. The thermometer doesn't often break triple-digits (40C to the non US-based reader), and he humidity is reportedly only around the 50% mark, but it feels much more intense than that. Walk around at your own peril.

Vietnam's history, oddly enough, dates back well before the mid '60s. In Hue (pronounced "hWay" or just "way") was the imperial capital of the region long before the French took over, and is home to impressive tombs and memorials to emperors long past. The best sights lay several kilometers outside the city, so we rented a motor scooter, braved the traffic, and trusted Google Maps to get us where we were going. Which it did. Mostly.

This is a complex country that's impossible to sum up a few paragraphs in a guide book or a few hundred words in this blog post. There's no way we can cover it all, so we'll just bring you the experiences we have along the way. We're posting videos (linked and embedded in this article) as often as we get good wifi. Sheila's getting caught up on the hundreds of pictures she's taking (and taken) and will be updating her Flickr and 500px photo streams along the way. And yes, she's back to making One Minute Memories videos of the beauty she encounters along the way

Me? I'm focused on continuing my #15DaysofPho experience, which is as delicious as you might think. And assuming I don't suck up all the data on my SIM card like I did in Hong Kong, we'll try and get back to Periscoping along the way. 

And those are just the live, in the moment happenings. There's lots more behind the scenes we're capturing to share on our podcast, in our newsletter... and in a few surprising ways in the coming weeks.

Thanks for following along with us on this journey. Next stop, Da Nang!