Ocean cloud pass

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

  • I returned to the rails today to begin my slow journey south to Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it’s more commonly called these days. My plan is to break up the journey by stopping at various points along the rail route which more-or-less follows the South China Sea coastline.

    Beginning the journey in the central Vietnamese city of Hué, the train snaked a spectacular path along jungle-covered cliffs, through the lush green mountains of the Hai Van Pass, and beside deserted golden beaches that melted into the warm blue water.

    Without a doubt this was a stunning bit of railway worthy of every accolade I’d heard. The Vietnamese call this particular rail route ‘Đèo Hải Vân’ which means ‘Ocean Cloud Pass’ and it’s hard to think of a more fitting name.

    For much of the journey I stood in the gangway between carriages looking out of the windows, snapping pictures that I knew would do little to capture the magic of a journey like this. More often than not I just put the camera in my pocket and watched, soaking in the scenery as best I could.

    If you look closely at the picture you’ll see free-riders sitting atop of the train carriages. I couldn’t help but be a tiny bit envious of their precarious perches. While my views were somewhat limited by the window they enjoyed glorious unobstructed views that tourists would probably pay good money to see. I watched them climb down and jump off the train as it was still moving, coming into the station at Danang.

    From Danang I had to find my way to Hoi An. The usual method is to find a local bus then argue with the driver who will try (and succeed) to overcharge you for a ticket. Another option is to take a taxi, however I found a far more exciting way to get there.

    For a little less than £4 (US$6) myself and a fellow train passenger, Yassine from France, jumped on the back of Motorcycles driven by local tour guides. As is the custom in these parts we haggled with them for a better price, but once that was agreed the riders strapped our bags to the back of their bikes and we took to the road for the hour long ride to Hoi An where I’ll spend the next couple of days.