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Aboard the Reunification Express

We crawled our way through Vietnam on the Reunification Express. At times I found myself unable to do anything but stare transfixed out the window.

Vietnam has a great piece of land. Really it does. It snakes along the entire eastern coast of southeast Asia like some great dragon, with mountains, productive plains, and biologically rich coastline.

The train line gives a most flattering view of this country, which already needs no flattering to be impressive.

Our compartment had emptied out early that morning, so for most of the day Scott and I had the place to ourselves. Eventually, a woman appeared, nervously offering us fruit. We refused a few times, and then accepted, to her great delight. The fruit was great. I believe it was durian, or another variety from that glorious family of gym-bag/fruit hybrids.  Then she revealed some sliced dragon fruit, which proved particularly tasty.

This woman kept returning to our bunk from time to time. Soon we began to suspect that she was, in fact,  a new bunk mate. We quickly rearranged our belongings to make room for her. She seemed to confirm our assumptions by sitting down, and we began attempts to communicate our welcome to her, offering food from our bag (all of which she refused), and posing together with her for a team picture.

The picture may have been a step too far, though it came from a kind place, for she began to blush uncontrollably and scampered off. She did reappear again and again, however, throughout our journey, mostly to offer us more fresh produce (sweet corn, dragon fruit, bananas, cucumbers). We felt bad about scaring her earlier, and did not want to eat her out of house and home, but at the same time she was pushing the food quite vehemently on us. We did our best to walk that line, leaving some food behind for her. But we never saw her eat.

Then all of a sudden, night was falling and she was still nowhere to be seen. The woman had been absent for some time. We never saw her again, though her plastic bag of fruit stayed with us for the next day or so.  To supplement the fruit, we ordered some of the tasty train food offered by the kitchen.

At about 11:00 pm, just as we were crawling into bed, a group of elderly Vietnamese people with tons of luggage made their way into our compartment. It turns out they were to be our bunk mates for the night, and were none too keen on our monopolization of the under-the-bunk storage. It was no easy task, but with some reorganization we were able to get everyone’s luggage into the compartment, and soon all concerned were once again asleep while the old magic carpet made of steel drew ever closer to Hanoi.


  1. Angela | June 15th, 2010 | 9:03 pm

    I know that hybrid gym-bag/fruit well. Thank you for reminding me and making me laugh.

  2. Mark/Dad | June 20th, 2010 | 4:59 pm

    I liked the familiar groaning of the slow-moving train with your window-view video.

    The dragon fruit was striking looking–I was surprised to learn it is a cactus fruit of New World origin!

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