A trip to Central Vietnam is not complete if you omit Hai Van Pass from your itinerary. Hai Van Pass loosely translated into English as “Ocean Cloud Pass” is a mountaineous train route surpassing the National Road 1A of Vietnam. The train route crosses Annamite Range, the mountain range that extends through Laos, Vietnam and small northern part of Cambodia. The fact that Hai Van Pass runs parellel along the coastal line of South China Sea makes it remarkably scenic as the mists that vaporize from the sea transform the ride into a journey to the other world.
This is a story of our journey through Hai Van Pass.
First and foremost, we were cheated by a travel agent from whom we purchased our train tickets to and fro Da Nang-Hue route together with a transfer from Hoi An to Da Nang train station. Flower, the travel agent introduced by Kim, the tailor, handed over return train tickets for 3 person and a piece of paper was clipped over the part that disclosed the price of train ride. It was only at the train station that I took off the piece of paper and realized we had paid triple the original price.
Upon knowing it, I sulked at the train station waiting for the delayed train. We met a student from Hanoi who told us never to pay anything especially transportation fee beyond VietDong 30,000.00 (MYR4.50). To be honest, the execution of the tips is difficult for someone who doesn’t speak Vietnamese. I also met an interesting persona while I was meandering at train station cafe. A man with a berret who claimed to be a lawyer when I told him I am a lawyer by profession. He wanted to send us to the hotel and politely asked if I could join him for a drink when in Hue.
On board the train, we didn’t get the window seat for there was enjoinder of 2 glass windows next to me. The only way to view the scenic panorama was to peep over the window of the person sitting in front of me. Only if you were lucky enough. The man who sat in front of me, shielded himself from the sunlight by pulling over the curtain, at which act, I nearly screamed to his ears. I paid triple the original price just to see a curtained window?
The thing about boarding Vietnamese train, there is no one coach meant for foreign travelers. So you will find yourself lump together with locals who prefer to pull over the curtain and doze off to sleep, leaving the foreign travelers to crane their necks so as not to miss a scenic moment. We were lucky as we were seated at one end of the coach. It made it easy for us to lean over the train door or toilet to see the scenic view. The train windows were dusty and I didn’t quite get the perfect pictures from Hai Van Pass. The misty looks of the pictures were also contributed by dirty windows. But overall, the journey through Hai Van Pass is one of the most scenic train rides I have had thus far.
On arrival at Hue train station and in the heat of the moment, I totally forgot about the man in berret’s offer. It was getting dark when we arrived, so we hopped onto a van after the driver agreed to take us to backpackers lodge for VietDong 30,000.00 for 3 pax.
Tips: When in Vietnam, make a thorough research on transportation to avoid being cheated.