Hue railway station is a bit like a large colonial house from the outside. Inside, there is a large concourse which serves as waiting area, ticket office, shops etc. Immediately before the train arrives, our tickets were checked and we were allowed out on to the single platform – the southbound train is on this side of the track and for northbound trains, it is necessary to actually cross the track. Anyway, the first train was northbound and it was incredibly old, with open windows, so we were getting a bit apprehensive about what we were expecting to be, our first class, air-conditioned, trip.
Along the platform, there was a colourful mix of local families and tourists. We talked to some of the tourists, including a large group of girls from the UK and Australia, and a young German couple. We spotted another British couple of our sort of age. Everyone was looking forward to this journey.
We were carrying two large suit cases, each weighting about 23 kg and two pretty heavy rucksacks. There were clearly no porters, nor was there a luggage compartment, so we were a bit concerned as to how we were going to manage the handling of the baggage. The train arrived soon after, and there was a bit of a surge to get on. All our anticipated apprehension proved correct.
Our first challenge was getting our heavy cases on to the train and to our surprise it was pretty uneventful. The second challenge was passing the huge, fat man, who had placed his expanded case blocking the aisle with no consideration for anyone else, and he refused to move his case and allow others to pass by. Alf was forced to lift the heavy cases over the top of the fat man’s case – but one of the English girls, who was pretty strong, gave Alf a hand. Our reserved seats were right at the other end of the carriage and apart from the isle, there didn’t seem to be anywhere to place our baggage. The guard suggested placing our cases in front of the main door, at the end of the carriage, as we were exiting at the next stop, three hours later – no health and safety regulations on this train!
We finally got to our seats, at the end of the carriage. We were delighted that the train was air-conditioned but we quickly learned that we did not have first class seats. We were able to see Vietnamese families at very, very close quarters indeed. The Vietnamese families were very friendly and the young children were lovely.
We spent most of the trip between two carriages, by an open window, taking some amazing photos and video footage. We ignored the people eating, snoring, coughing and sneezing and focused entirely on the views.
The scenery was truly breathtaking, as the train snaked around the coast, overlooking the sea, often with sheer drops of hundreds of metres. On one side was the coastline and on the other were some spectacular mountains. We saw amazing vegetation, with colours and patterns to delight the eye, and beautiful steep hills, climbing from the coast, plus many farms, rice fields and, of course, animals and birds.
Whatever the standard of the journey, we would not have missed it for the world.
We still need to edit our photos and video footage which we shall share in due course but to give you a flavor, check out the following YouTube video: