When all things are considered Vietnam has a pretty good train system.
Sure, it’s nothing like Japan’s bullet train, but it’s much better than some steam-train trips I took in Thailand back in the early 1970s.
Travelling by train is my favourite mode of transportation for long distances, and it’s a pity that train travel has become so expensive here in Australia. The beauty of travelling by train is that one can get up and walk around. Another thing that sets train travel apart is a sleeper carriages. It really is a luxury on a long trip to be able to just stretch out and lie down to get some sleep.
In Vietnam there are basically four different classes of train travel. Hard seat and soft seat air-conditioned seating and for the sleepers there are, hard 6 berth air-conditioned and soft 4 berth air-conditioned. For what is effectively very little difference in money, one would have to be mad or totally broke to go on a long journey in a hard seat without air-conditioning in Vietnam, when the four berth air-conditioned sleepers such a good deal.
My wife and I travelled in the hard six berth air-conditioned and soft four berth air-conditioned sleepers and to tell you the truth there isn’t that much difference in the softness of the berths. The big difference between the two different kinds of sleepers is the four berth sleepers give one lot more room, and you can actually sit up in your bunk.
The hard six berth air-conditioned sleepers are really cramped, and the Vietnamese, as lovely as they are, don’t seem to have the same sense of personal space as westerners. A Vietnamese person (or two) will think nothing of sitting on your bunk with you, without asking, which can be a real drag if there are six people in a very small space. Another issue with having so many people in one room is that during the night you have that many more people climbing up and down bunks during the evening to use the toilet so it can be quite a bit noisier. A word to the wise, book top bunks for a better nights sleep.
Because of the close proximity that one is to their fellow travellers, trains can be a very social experience.
Both my wife and I enjoyed meeting the local Vietnamese people, who we found to be generally, very friendly. On a few occasions, we met young educated people who were incredibly well informed about Australia. It came as quite a shock to meet somebody from overseas, who actually understood Australian politics. I wouldn’t have thought that it would have rated as interesting for a Vietnamese person.
Vietnamese trains also provide basic meals and bottled drinking water as part of the price.
The food is fairly ordinary,
but it wasn’t bad (especially when one considers how cheap the tickets were), and if you get tired of what is on offer for free there is other food for sale from vendors who travel up and down the train.