Travel & Life

Rail trip down Vietnam named one of the best in Asia

Why not roll with the flow and take the scenic route with a 1,700km train ride?

“The journey, not the arrival, matters,” South China Post Magazine cited poet T. S. Eliot as saying in a recent article to highlight the joys of a train journey compared to air travel for those who are not in a rush.

In its Friday report, the Hong Kong-based publication goes on to prove its point with a list of the seven best rail journeys in Asia, which includes Vietnam’s north-south rail link.

While many Vietnamese people have turned their back on trains following the boom of low cost carriers and the fast development of air services, the Post Magazine insists that the train between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will give passengers an unforgettable experience without having someone “tell them off for packing too many toiletries or insist on them removing their belt and shoes and taking their laptop out of its case”.

Stopover options on the 1,726-kilometer (1,072-mile) line between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City include the imperial city of Hue, the French colonial port of Da Nang City and the ancient settlement of Hoi An.

Sun worshippers have six kilometers of white sands to choose from in Nha Trang, and can chill in the delightful hill station of Da Lat, Vietnam’s City of Eternal Spring, it describes.

Post Magazine also recommended train journeys through Siberia, Sri Lanka, and India, the Eastern & Oriental Express that connects Thailand and Singapore, with stops in Malaysia, the line from Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet, and the line from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw, Myanmar.

In April, U.K.-based travel publisher Rough Guides also named the journey on Vietnam’s north-south rail link one of the best scenic routes in Asia.

The north-south railway line in Vietnam has been degrading since it was completed by the French in the 1930s.

The railway network accounts for 1.14 percent of passenger transport in Vietnam, compared to 96 percent who travel by road and 2 percent who choose to fly, according to official data. Most freight is also now transported via road.

In an attempt to win back passengers, the railway sector has launched an online booking service, and some companies have rolled out first-class trips with restaurant cars.

A five-star train was launched this year from Ho Chi Minh City to the coastal resort town of Nha Trang, and passengers from Hanoi can now enjoy a touch of class on their way to the northern highlands town of Sa Pa.