From Ho Chi Minh City, I took the overnight train to Denang. The trip lasted about 16 hours, it was quite comfortable in my air conditioned soft-sleeper bunk. I shared the cabin with a pair of Vietnamese men (one who was travelling with his 4-year-old son – a trip that reminded me of excursions my siblings and I once shared with our dad). Also in the cabin was a Vietnamese woman, who left the train at an earlier station. The trip was pleasant, but the train lacked a dining car, so you could eat as stewards plied the cars with food and drink of all sorts, but there was no place to meet and chat with other travellers. Consequently, I spent nearly the entire trip sleeping in my bunk. The rest was nice, but since much of the trip took place during hours of darkness, I didn’t see much of the country. If I were going to take the same trip again, I would try to take a day train or bus, or just fly to save time.
An aside: if you’re going to start smoking, South East Asia is the place to cut your chops. You can try all sorts of different cigarettes for low prices to figure out what brand suits you best from a taste and overall sophistication perspective. I am not an advocate of the habit, but if you’re going to do it, when you’re only paying 70 cents for a package of smokes, this is the place to sort out whether it’s right for you – or to real indulge your nicotine addiction whole hog.
Notwithstanding the tedium of the train ride, I was duly rewarded when my moto left me on China Beach – quite literally. When I asked to go to China Beach, he waited until I was on the back of the moto (barely) and then roared off to the beach. He didn’t look for a restaurant or bar or hotel; he drove right to the intersection of road and beach, smiled broadly and said “here”, pointing at the sand. That was good enough for me. Quickly, I paid my pilot, dropped my pack, doffed my shoes and waded into the sea. The water was lovely and the powdery white sand was felt wonderful as it spread through my toes. However, the area’s somewhat recent entry into the tourist market meant there were few English signs. Further, since it is low season, so many guest houses were closed – or at least were not so aggressive in their pursuit of guests as in Ho Chi Minh City (and thus seemed closed). Instead of stumbling into homes trying to figure out where to stay, I wrapped up my fun on the beach, hopped on a moto to the bus station and boarded a night bus to Hanoi.