Telegraph names top 10 train journeys in Asia, and 2 of them are in Vietnam

By Vi Vu   January 11, 2018 | 04:33 am PT
Telegraph names top 10 train journeys in Asia, and 2 of them are in Vietnam
A Vietnam Railways train barrel through central Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Phuong
The Hanoi-Saigon trip offers 1,600km of pagodas and paddies, while the Kunming-Hanoi train races down the amazing rice terraces of Sa Pa.

Vietnam appeals to tourists in many ways, and there’s one way where you can just sit, stare and take in all its beauty: a train journey.

The U.K.-based Telegraph recently selected its 10 best train journeys in Asia for 2018, and two of them are in Vietnam.

Travelers can take a trip on the Reunification Express that winds north-south down Vietnam’s coast connecting Hanoi and Saigon and all points in between in just 36 hours.

Those with more time can hop off along the way and dig deeper into coastal towns to feel the sand and local life in Da Nang, Hoi An or Nha Trang.

Rural and natural landscapes dominate the 1,600km (1,000 miles) journey on a “pastoral parade of pagodas, paddies and conical farmers hats,” said the Telegraph.

Last year, travel publisher Rough Guides also named the route one of the most scenic in Asia, where one can watch buffalos grazing in rice paddies and fishermen casting their nets in the sea as well as deserted white beaches and lush rainforests.

Vietnam Railways operates the 36-hour trip for VND850,000 ($37) for a soft seat and VND1.24 million ($55) for a sleeper, both in air-conditioned cabins.

Vietnam's other entry on the Telegraph list is the line running between Hanoi and Kunming in China.

The 563km mountain route can be made in 16 hours in a soft sleeper cabin. From Vietnam's border, it races downhill through the highly acclaimed rice terraces of Sa Pa, before running through the working suburbs of Hanoi.

The entire trip costs from $34.

The other top 10 train journeys in Asia, according to the Telegraph, are those propelling travelers through the jungles of Malaysia and Thailand, mosques and temples in Bangladesh, plantations in Sri Lanka, Mumbai's suburbs to the palm forests of India, Indonesia's hustling Jakarta to its cultural capital Yogyakarta, Beijing to Shanghai, and from Yokohama to Shimoda in Japan with wonderful views of Mount Fuji.

Vietnam’s railway line has a long history. The French built the country’s first railway which ran 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Saigon to My Tho in the Mekong Delta in 1881. A north-south system of more than 3,000 kilometers was developed over the next decades.

But rail transport has faded rapidly in recent years, given the little attention it has received and the rise of cheap air travel.

Between 2011 and 2015, only 3 percent of the state's infrastructure investment went on rail transport, while roads received nearly 90 percent.

In 2016, the aviation industry served 52 million people, up 29 percent from the previous year. Train passengers dropped 17 percent to 9.8 million that same year.

Some companies have been trying to revive the romance of train travel, offering first-class trips with restaurant cars like the five-star services launched last year from Saigon to the coastal resort town of Nha Trang and from Hanoi to the northern highlands town of Sa Pa.

Vietnam Railways earlier this month added six 5-star trains for its Hanoi-Saigon service.

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