The DMZ

Skipping back to the end of June this year (yip all over the show now… I am writing on our time in Vietnam where we spent a month traveling from the north to the south). After our few days in the lovely and quaint city of Hanoi we decided to take the train down to a town called Hue. We booked the overnight train which we jumped on at 2300 and arrived only a couple of hours late at 1300 the next day. On the trains in Vietnam, one is woken around 0600 when they turn the Rail TV on to a level of volume that one might only dream of being able to sleep through after being awake for most of the night in a reclining chair due to not being able to get a sleeper cabin even a week in advance (dam peak season).

So aside from Rail TV waking the both of us from our ever so light sleep it was in fact a pretty enjoyable train ride, watching the scenery go by along with watching the different family’s on board traveling to their holiday destinations and let me tell you the average Vietnamese family traveling on these trains travels with everything but the kitchen sink! I’m straying yet again from the topic… with the topic being the DMZ just north of Hue (well when I say just north, it was still a good three hour car ride in which I willed us to stay on the road and keep all cars, buses and trucks from hitting us the whole way there and back!

A few stops we made along the way to look at a few memorial sites leading up to the DMZ. This area of Vietnam was one of the most bombed areas in military history! Many of the bombs filled with nasty things like napalm, phosphorus and herbicides. Even though most of the land is now covered in vegetation you can still see many of the craters left by the bombs exploding. However many of the bombs didn’t explode on impact, almost a third, well so they say. They continue to clear the land of these unexploded landmines, bombs and shells but incidences still happen on a weekly basis causing death or injury in both adults and children.

Local people lived in the tunnels for years, only at night would they come up above ground level to see the stars and have fresh air.

Built for little people!

The tunnel system consisted of three different levels under the ground, the dense clay in the region made it easy for the people to dig the tunnels then once dried remained extremely strong. The first level was 13m below ground level the 2nd being around 15m and the 3rd level being 24m underground!!! It took two years to build, and is linked to the sea by seven exits, these also worked as ventilation for the tunnels.

After our guide through the tunnels we headed for some lunch about a ten minute drive from the tunnels in a little coastal village. The place where we ate, as many of them do looked rather unassuming with not a soul to be seen aside from the family that would be serving us our lunch.

Not a bad view from the lunch table.

Our driver ordered lunch for us and within minutes the husband was off on his scooter to grab a few ingredients. The food was fast and fresh and tasted amazing. Served with a cold beer also!

Back in the car for the three hour drive back to Hue I dared not go to sleep I had to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic! All in all an uneventful car journey back to my surprise. Got to see some fish being dried on the side of the road, I can only guess it was for the ever famous fish sauce made in Vietnam!

 

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Sri Lankan Train Track Walk

On our fourth day in Sri Lanka we did something a bit different.

We arrived at a small town called Ella, located in the hill country in southern Sri Lanka. Our guide recommended a 5km walk down the train tracks from Ella to the next station down the line. This sounded fun and we soon found out it would be a good way to see the condition of the of the railways, originally built by the British in the mid 1800’s. Once walking to Demodara, we would take the train back. Sounds like fun, lets go !

After heading off down the track, it didn’t take long to notice that maybe these are the original rails laid by the British over 150 years ago !

Isn’t that nail meant to hold that track down?!

Wonder where the ‘clickity-clack’ noise comes from? Its from the gaps in the rail joins, and its little wonder Sri Lankan trains are not the quietest to ride in. More loose bolts, missing nails…..

Walking down the track we meet a rail ‘inspection & maintenance’ worker. Looks like he has been doing alot of walking….. not much else!

We came to the conclusion that Sri Lankan railways rely on the weight of the trains to hold everything down. So we got on and enjoyed the scenery.

Cheeky monkey !

After a lovely 5km walk and arriving to our destination of Demodara station, we had a bit of time to kill before jumping on a train back to Ella.

There is only one way to cool down after a long walk…….. mmmmm beeeer !

Our first trainride in SE Asia

 

After leaving Italy in June our adventure through SE Asia began. First stop was Singapore for a couple of nights to get ourselves slightly acclimatised (as a friend of mine put it, “Singapore is Asia for beginners”).  After a short flight from Singapore we arrived in Hatyai (Southern Thailand) where we jumped on our first train which was heading to Suratthani! It was an eye opener yet enjoyable experience and one to be had when in Thailand. We were in a carriage that looked like it was from the 1950’s, the seats were soft and reclined a little and the windows opened right up which made for a very noisy 7 hour train ride! But considering it was a non air-conditioned van the windows and fans were a must! There were plenty of friendly locals trying to sell all kinds of foods that we didn’t dare put in our mouths!!!

There is only one track in Thailand for trains going both North and South, so the train often came to a stop (for what seemed like a very long time) in the passing bay to let another train go by that was coming the other way, this causes the trains to often run behind time and normally extends an already long train ride by a couple of hours.