The Reunification Express

Trip Start Dec 05, 2007
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Trip End Jan 02, 2008


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Survived the train journey, actually it was quite comfy, clean and went faster than I thought. It rolled out of Hanoi's main station at about 8.45 pm, a hugely long train of about 15 carriages. Never caught sight of the engine and I think there was another one at the rear. The 4 of us, me, Suzanne, Rowland and Hai were all together in a 4 berth compartment ( Kimberely had opted to fly to Hue). The beds were hard but OK with clean white sheets and a duvet and pillow. Even the toilets stayed clean all night, a western one at one end and a squat toilet at the other which I didn't go into.

We had brought a picnic dinner, bread rolls and cheese, cashew nuts choc biscuits and chips, sticky rice, bananas and mandarins and some cans of beer. After a few hours of fun and enjoying the rocking of the train I fell asleep  and woke up with misty light outside and saw the sun gleaming off the paddie fields. Hurrah, the sun! Almost the first time I'd seen it since getting to Vietnam.

By the time we got into Hue about 8am it was familiar overcast, but much cleaner air than Hanoi.This seems a very nice quiet town, full of history and political intrigue. We met up with alocal guide who took us to the Citadel, and the Imperial Enclosure, oozing with historical buildings where the emperor and his wives, concubines and mandarins used to live and carry out his official functions.

After an hour walking around these magnificent buildings that are gradually being restored faithfully as they used to be, we went to the banks of  the Perfume River. Here we got on a (tin) dragon boat and chugged up river visiting the Thien Mu Pagoda which had been a stronghold of Buddhists and student opposition to the South Vietnamese government and the war. They have the Austin car on show that the monk Thich Quang Duc traveled to Saigon in and then publicly burned himself to death to protest the policies of President Ngo Dinh Diem.

We travelled on. The river is wide and a beautiful deep green colour, like jade. Misty mountains were in the background. Then we got off at a river bank maybe 8 kms upstream and walked a little while till we came across our minibus waiting faithfully. A short drive through green and rolling fields and forests brought us to a most magical place which I don't even know the name of. It was a landscaped complex of lakes and pagodas and little wooden structures. See the photos ! Could have roamed around it for far longer than the hour we were there. It had tombs of kings and their wives in secluded walled gardens with ancient looking trees.

Tonight had a dinner dressed as kings and queens, serenaded by a group of authentic musicians, each dish decorated with fruits and vegies cut into shapes of ducks, boats, flowers etc. All very beautiful and delicious ! Heard some Vietnamese frogs croaking, they sound like a hoarse dog bark. Tomorrow it's on to Hoi An, new mini bus, new driver. Ho hum what a life ! By the way this hotel is swish, beautiful room and free internet. Still slow at uploading photos but I've figured out how it works. So check out some pics in my previous entries.
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