The Reunification Express Train From Hanoi to Saigon & Going Home

Posted on Posted in North America, Southeast Asia, Travel Blogs, United States, Vietnam

Our trip from Hanoi was a good one albeit long and arduous. We decided to take the train called the Reunification Express, which cost nearly the same as flights, yet more costly after you factor in hotels and food. The train was a 4 berth sleeper train with sleeping pads reminiscent of my days in jail years ago.  However, all in all not a bad way to travel. We were able to sleep most of the time and Buddha was actually able to get out of his cage and hang out with us a little. No domestic flights in Vietnam would accept him in-cabin so it was the train or bus. We have left Hanoi and South East Asia for indeterminate amount of time.

10 Things We Miss About The USA

We are absolutely glad and refreshed to be back in Oceanside. Shelly and I were sitting at our favorite breakfast restaurant Beach Break Café, marveling at the conveniences we once took for granted and missed while living in Asia. Here are just a few of the millions.

1.  Salt shakers that actually dispense salt on my food.

2.  Ordering an Ice water is really no big deal.

3.  Real ketchup that isn't sweet tasting and generally un-palatable.

4.  SOURDOUGH toast.

5.  People aren't honking their horn incessantly.

6.  I can understand everything that is being said to me, and our server spoke PERFECT English!

7.  Going over 50 miles an hour in a car

8.  Coffee places where you can get your coffee anyway you please.

9.  Not being stared at constantly.

10. Not being the fattest people you see all day long.

There are many more, and the list could be huge.

Traveling From Hanoi to the USA

After nearly 60 hours of traveling in the last 10 days which included a 19 hour train ride from Hanoi to Da Nang and Hoi An, 10 hour train ride from Da Nang to Nha Trang where we spent 4 days hanging out and 2 days SCUBA diving.  We then took another 9 hour train ride to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).  We were in Saigon for 24 hours, then took a 5 hour flight to Inchon (Seoul) South Korea, and another 10 Hour flight to Los Angeles.  We then took a bus from LAX to Union Station and then the 2 hour Metrolink Train from Union Station to Oceanside. I'm not including all the taxi rides etc, but all in all about 60 hours.

The Train Ride Leaving Hanoi

Reunification Express (referring to the Reunification of Vietnam), is on a single-track connecting the Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh.  It's total length of service is 1,726km (1,072mi). There is no official name of a train being called the "Reunification Express".  The train line itself was finished in 1936, but as the North and South split in the Vietnam War era, the line was not in use of course.  Therefore when it was back in service after the war, this is why it's called the Reunification Express.   In 2005, there were 278 stations on the on the route, there might have been more when we took the train in 2013. I think we stopped at all of them!!!

Hoi An and Da Nang Stopover

Hoi An was a wonderful stop. It's a quint little town about 30km south of Da Nang and still holds the "old charm" of Vietnam. Alot of sidewalk cafes and restaurants lining a river and shops everywhere. Nha Trang is a city that is booming. Other than losing my camera out of my own stupidity (again) it was a nice place to stay. A lot of construction and large-scale building projects going on in the way of resorts and hotels. It's beautiful there! The beaches are great and scenery surrounding the city is amazing.

SCUBA Diving In Nha Trang

We decided to finally use our scuba equipment we have been luggin' around the world for the better part of a year and do some dives. We chose a great shop called Scuba Dive Nha Trang. The place is owned by a great guy named Rich from the Quebec area of Canada. He was one of the only guys we talked to at any shop that actually gave us any discounts for having our own equipment and being dive professionals. He knocked our 2 dive price from 60 to 50 dollars. We dove with a great divemaster named Ashe who is from South Africa and reminded us of our first SCUBA instructor in Utila

The first day it was just us and another divemaster who was traveling around as well. Two 60 minute dives!! It's nice to dive with people of your own caliber. The next day it was just Shelly and I with Ashe. We did a deep dive through swim-throughs, totalling 60+ minutes, then after our surface interval of about an hour and a half we did an 83 minute dive around 20-30 feet. It was amazing. You never get to do that when you are paying for diving. I don't think you get to do that very often when you work at a shop and dive with your staff! All in all a decent diving adventure on some decent coral in Vietnam. The diving wasn't the best we have seen, but also not the worst.  The worse part of the trip to Nha Trang was when I lost my camera and all the pictures we took on the train journey!   Argh!  I know where I left it, and when I went back, it was gone.   So no pictures this post. 🙁

The best part however, was meeting a couple from Colorado.  The Ballwebers were diving with the same company doing their advanced certification,  and we hit it off!  They were backpacking and we let them use our wonderful shower in our room because they had booked an overnight bus to Hoi An and had already checked out of their hotel.  A great couple and we enjoyed sharing stories with two travelers with similar interests.  That night we also headed out to get some really good Indian food. Here's their blog address.  Our Traveling Adventure.

A picture Megan Ballweber took Diving (see us in the background?)

Saigon and Inchon

Saigon was lack-luster and we were only there for 24 hours.  Inchon, South Korea was only a night stay over as well.  There were a few things about Korea that we found interesting however.  We booked a hotel near the airport and it was cold.  Snowing cold.  There was snow on the ground and we weren't all that used to weather like this.  We had spent the last year and a half in the tropics and had no warm clothes in our suitcases.  We got to the hotel and there was nowhere to eat.  We had to walk down the street to a 7-11 and get some packaged things. The prices for a packaged sandwich was in the 10-11 dollar range.  We were starving however and shelled out the remaining money we had and ate some really bad packaged sandwiches.  Back at the hotel, we realized there was a knob on the wall.  After messing around with it, we learned that is for the floor to be heated.  We cranked it up and had a restful night sleep.  If South Korea is this expensive, we are not sure we want to visit here again.  It's not in our price range.

Why Did We Leave Hanoi?

We left Hanoi on the Reunification Express and ended our year and a half travel adventure for many reasons.  One is that we want to scuba dive. We were making decent money in Hanoi, but we really needed to get ahead of where we were financially.  In order to become SCUBA Instructors, we would need to make a lot more money than we were making in Hanoi, and going back to the US was a good way to do it.

We have some amazing experience in Hanoi teaching and we miss our kids IMMENSELY!!!  What we don't miss is our crappy bosses in Hanoi. It was quite literally hell working for the CEO and Principal, who made an otherwise enjoyable job, with incredible rewards, devastatingly depressing. Our apartment was great when we left and they returned our deposit, and even prorated our rent for the month since we left early.

Change In Perspective

We got to a point where we looked at each other and said "what are we doing?" We were able to save money in Hanoi and life was good but, being happy is all that matters, and we were miserable.  We could have quit and got other jobs, but as the school year ends in June anyway, we decided to pack up, go back to the states, make some real money and enjoy the simply things of life, like pourable salt and tasty ketchup. 

We know that life is too short to not be doing the things you want to do.  We had goals to become SCUBA Instructors in order to do more of the things we wanted to do.  We are going to miss the weirdness of Hanoi and Asia, however decided it was time to leave. We have learned more on this year and a half adventure than we ever thought possible.  We grew as people, experienced an incredible amount of life in a short time.  Our perspective has changed permanently and so has our life.  Here's to the future!  

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