Jonathan Lee

Worldly Images

Vietnam June 2011

Having flown virtually direct from Philadelphia in the US, via London Heathrow, for a 5 hours stop-over, and Kuala Lumpur for a couple of hours, I ended a very long journey indeed as we touched down in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

I was very much looking forward to getting straight into things that afternoon but Vietnam Railways (DSVN) (can be navigated using Google Translate) had other ideas……..

Our plans were to do as much as possible on the Vietnamese D13E class, which were imported from India in two batches (1975 & 2003) and are essentially classified as YDM4 by the Indians, the only difference being the body shell. Unfortunately the ticketing system in Vietnam is not crank friendly and once trains are sold out you can’t get on them, at all. You need tickets to get onto the stations and there are ticket inspectors at every door as well for the second line of attack! Not only that once you’re on, you’re locked in by padlock until the coach attendants open up for you to get out, at booked stations only.

Our plan on the first day was soon in the gutter due to the above mentioned reasons, the result of which was us having to watch D13E-706 depart with SH2 1310 Saigon – Hue. After which we retired to the Hotel Huong Mai which overlooked the station and cost VD420,000 for a nice twin room with AC. We slept from 1500 that evening until gone 0600 the following morning. We had planned to go out for something to eat but it just didn’t happen………..

Things didn’t look up for us the following day either as we ended up having to do D19E-918 to Nha Trang on TN2 1005 Saigon – Hanoi as the other two trains likely to be D13E were both fully booked (TN4 & SH2). Our reward at Nha Trang was at least D13E-706, clawed back from the previous evening.

For the following 4 days things went quite well. We had 6 different D13E and thanks to a good friend, who had a contact within the Railways, we were able to find out what trains the D13E were allocated each day, making life that little bit easier, although by that point we had started booking tickets on more than one train in an attempt to minimise the disappointment if our first choice wasn’t what we’d expected. Unfortunately the bash finished as it had started, on another D19E, this time 938. We knew it was coming though as we’d seen it go out the previous day, and much like the start of the bash we had to flag a D13E to do it, again thanks to fully booked trains…….

All in all though a very enjoyable trip, despite it only being a short one. The country is very cheap and I highly recommend staying in Nha Trang if you can.

The timetables are ever changing and at holiday times there are more trains. Seat 61 has up to date timetables and below are photos of the ones at Saigon which were current during my visit.

Below are the workings we saw during the trip

Enjoy the photos……………

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