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Floods and Ruins

Hoi An

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To leave Hue I finally got to try the Vietnamese train system. It did not start well. I arrived at the station to be told my train to Danang had been delayed. However, the early morning service hadn't arrived yet and I could swap my ticket. I was in the 'soft seat' carriage and was delighted to discover tv screens blaring Vietnamese pop would accompany us on the 2 and a half hour journey. I was more interested in watching the impressive coastline out the window, although my seat wouldn't budge from the fully reclined position so I saw it all from a slightly odd angle. On arriving in Danang I shared a taxi with a lovely German couple to my next destination, Hoi An. This is a small coastal town that was once an important port, bringing Chinese and Japanese architectural influences that have survived five centuries of unrest and flooding and are now recognised by UNESCO. Indeed, the river had burst its banks after the storm that had flooded the train tracks and, I later discovered, killed 12 people in the centre of Vietnam.

In the evening I dined with my new German friends, who had asked me to show them my TransSiberian photos as they are considering embarking on the trip (I was more than happy to advise, I've become somewhat evangelical on the topic). The next day I visited several of the preserved Chinese Assembly Halls and merchants' houses and ate the local specialty of flat noodles with roasted pork and crackling.

With my night train not until late the next evening I had time to visit the Cham ruins of My Son- these temples and burial places survived over a thousand years until the Americans dropped B52s on the Viet Cong who were using them as a base. What remains is still imposing and fascinatingly no one has yet worked out what the Cham used to stick their bricks together.

We took a boat back to Hoi An via a small fishing village, which has its own ferry service tailored to the locals choice of transportation.

And so to the sleeper train. The hotel had advised the best time to take a taxi to be at the station in plenty of time but they were a little on the generous side- I found myself, along with some Brits and Belgians in the same situation, with a couple of hours to kill so we sat drinking tea on the tiny patio furniture beloved of SE Asia. Having successfully passed the time we were informed our train would be two hours late, so there was only one thing for it; beer. Vietnamese beer isn't half bad and at 4.3% is a vast improvement on the watery nonsense they serve in China.

The carriages followed the same premise as the other sleepers I've been in- 4 berths, scratchy blankets, grumpy locals. The cleanliness left a little to be desired (Sasha would have been horrified) and I was glad for my sleeping bag liner and travel pillow. But my gift for sleeping anywhere came in to its own and I awaited our arrival in Nha Trang.

Posted by arianemeena 01:48 Archived in Vietnam

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hello ariane

not sure what happened to the long email I wrote you but just to let you know that I am reading your travel diaries with interest and amazement!
Will you ever want to go back to work?!

Milly enjoying her fashion course at UWE, Amy beavering away at her PhD at UCL and Esther working her socks off at her Paediatrics placement in Southend,
Hope you are keeping well, sending loads of love and luck,

by Harriet Tillson

Fascinated by the Vietnamese ruins,and looking forward to pix of Saigon.Glad you managed to avoid the worst of the floods & typhoon! Mx

by jane waran

Long journeys - small world. My friend who has just started work in Vietnam is about to spend Half Term in Hoi An. Looks wonderful.

by Viv Godbold

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