see + do
Concierge.com's insider take:
Decades of conflict disrupted this French-built rail line, but the 1,070-mile link from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City was finally restored after the Vietnam War concluded in 1975. While Vietnam Railways will never be confused with France's lightning-quick TGV service, or even Amtrak, what its coaches lack in speed and style is largely mitigated by unforgettable scenery and unbeatable value. The most spectacular stretch of the line runs 60 miles south from Hue to Da Nang, skirting lagoons and electric-green rice paddies, threading tunnels through the wild coastal mountains and then climbing along the sheer edge of a sea cliff and through Hai Van Pass to make a sweeping final descent. A train buff's fantasy, the two-hour journey costs just 40,000 Vietnamese dong ($2.50). The 325-mile, nine-hour stretch from Da Nang to Nha Trang also passes through a classic Vietnamese landscape of rice paddies and lush mountains. Shoot for SE-class trains, which are a mix of air-conditioned coaches and "soft" (four bunks to a room) and "hard" (six to a room) class sleepers. Drinks trolleys rattle down the aisles with cold beer and hot coffee, while a dining car turns out com ga kho (chicken and ginger) for less than $1 a plate. Prerecorded commentary in English explains some of the major attractions along the way. Do keep a pack of tissues handy, as the Western-style bathrooms often lack toilet paper. Hotels and tour companies can arrange train bookings; tickets can also be purchased from English-speaking railway staff at stations in major cities.