Source: Flickr | Santi LLobet
There are many ways to travel around Vietnam. Renting motorbikes is especially popular, whether you’re going through tourist attractions in the city or trekking and hiking in the countryside. Another popular but seemingly underrated mode of transportation, especially for tourists, would be the trains. They’re quite comfortable and inexpensive, not to mention actually faster compared to taking domestic flights, considering the time you have to spend going to, through, and from the airports. An amazing bonus is that you’ll be able to see some of the best views in Vietnam, which you otherwise wouldn’t even have a glimpse of when you take the plane.
If you’re booking a Vietnam travel package from Traveloka for your vacation, why don’t you try exploring by train? You’ll surely be in for a treat! To help you get started, here are some destinations you can add to your itinerary.
If you’re traveling from Da Nang, the train journey to Hue is about 3 hours. Located along the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945. It’s one of the best historical destinations in the country, with the Imperial City and Citadel among the most popular attractions. These structures are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can also find several tombs of former emperors in Hue, including those of Khai Dinh, Minh Mang, and Tu Duc. Another must-visit is the Thien Mu Pagoda, the city’s official symbol. Of course, you can also simply stroll along the Perfume River and take in the beautiful sights. For foodies, Hue has delicious regional specialties like bun bo hue and banh beo. Meanwhile, museum lovers should definitely add the Hue Royal Antiquities Museum in their schedule.
From Hue, you can take the train to Ninh Binh District. It’s also only 3 hours away from Hanoi, so you can also take the Reunification Express to get there. Once you reach Ninh Binh, you’ll be impressed by its beauty and diversity. It’s actually nicknamed “Halong Bay on Land” since it also features limestone karsts jutting straight from the ground. These natural limestone towers are made even more impressive by the rivers snaking through them and the caves formed in the stone. For some of the best nature adventures, visit the Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprised mountains and caves. Tam Coc Bich Dong, arguably Ninh Binh’s most famous tourist attraction, is part of this impressive natural wonder. For beach bums, the coastal side of Ninh Binh is to the east and south.
Mui Ne in southern Vietnam is one of the best windsurfing and scuba diving destinations in Vietnam. There are also plenty of fishing villages to explore, where you can catch and eat fresh seafood. One of the primary reasons that tourists flock to Mui Ne, however, is its sand dunes. Among the biggest in Asia, Mui Ne’s dunes are multi-hued with red, white, and yellow sand. Another popular attraction in Mui Ne is the Fairy Stream, with its orange clay bed and white and red cliffs surrounding it. To reach Mui Ne, you can take a train from Ho Chi Minh City to Phan Thiet, then ride a bus or taxi that will take you to the town.
Sa Pa, a mountain town in Lao Cai Province, is reachable from Hanoi by train. After the overnight train ride, you’ll have to ride a taxi or bus to reach the town. Sa Pa is a popular trekking and mountain climbing destination. It’s near Phang Xi Pang Peak, and also overlooks the Muong Hoa Valley and its verdant rice terraces. If you prefer to ride a bike than walk, you can also avail mountain bike guided tours that include tours to local villages. Speaking of local villages, Sa Pa is also a great destination for cultural tours since the town’s population is mostly comprised of hill tribes like the Dao, Hmong, and Tay.
From Ho Chi Minh City, you can take the Vietnam Railways SE6 to get to Nha Trang, a coastal resort city. More than its beautiful beaches and pristine islands and mountains, however, Nha Trang is also a historical and cultural gem. The city is home to what remains of the Champa Kingdom, including the Po Nagar Cham Towers. Located in Mount Cu Lau and overlooking the Cai River, the Po Nagar Cham Towers were dedicated to Hindu deities. Only four of the original ten towers stand today, which are dedicated to Cri Cambhu, Ganeca, Po Nagar, and Sanhaka. Another popular site in Nha Trang is the Long Son Pagoda, with its massive white Buddha statue. For something more unique, you can visit the Hon Khoi Salt Fields. The “harvest” season for salt is from January to June.
Vietnam’s railway system may not be as sophisticated as those in Japan, Hong Kong, or Singapore. Still, it has its own charm. Indeed, riding the trains in Vietnam will open your eyes to a different side and beauty of the country.