After months of flitting between Bali and nearby southeast Asian cities, I'm finally on a proper southeast Asia jaunt, backpack over one shoulder and camera over the other. Since Christmas I've been traveling around Cambodia with my brother. Now he's on his way back to America and I'm in Saigon. Tomorrow I head north on the night train, making my way to Hoi An.
I try to keep my travel expectations low to non-existant to avoid unrealistic disappointment, but the notion of riding the night train across a foreign land holds an unshakeable romanticism. After reading Paul Theroux's account of his voyage on this train, I have no chance of reigning in my imagination.
"'No one knows it,' said Cobra Two. No one in the States has the slightest idea how beautiful it is. Look at that -- God, look at that!'
We were at the fringes of a bay that was green and sparkling in bright sunlight. Beyond the leaping jade plates of the sea was an overhang of cliffs and the sight of a valley so large it contained sun, smoke, rain and cloud -- all at once -- independent quantities of colour. I had been unprepared for this beauty; it surprised and humbled me in the same degree the emptiness had in India. Who has mentioned the simple fact that the heights of Vietnam are places of unimaginable grandeur? Though we can hardly blame a frightened draftee for not noticing this magnificence, we should have known all along that the French would not have colonized it, nor would the Americans have fought so long, if such ripeness did not invite the eye to take it."
- Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar