By train through Vietnam – From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City | DW Documentary

By train through Vietnam – From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City | DW Documentary

A journey of about 1,700 kilometers. In Vietnam, the “Reunification Express” train travels from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. After the end of the Vietnam War, the destroyed line was quickly repaired, to help support the reconciliation of the people of North and South Vietnam.

The 32-hour journey through the Southeast Asian country is an opportunity to experience unique culture and take in breathtaking landscapes. The first stop is the Trang An Landscape Complex, a nature reserve that is home to Delacour’s Langurs — a very rare, endangered primate species.

From here, the journey continues south. The train crosses the Ben Hai River at the 17th parallel. This was the border between North and South Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the bloodiest battles raged here. It is not far to Hue, which was the capital of Vietnam in imperial times. Here, the filmmakers disembark to attend a performance of the Royal Ballet.

Now, the train approaches the scenic highlight of the trip: the ride along the South China Sea takes viewers through the Ocean Cloud Pass, a climatic border between North and South Vietnam. In Da Lat, a motorcycle tour makes a short detour into the mountains before the trip ends the next morning in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. The “Reunification Express” — a symbol of reconciliation between Vietnam‘s North and South.

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Video Transcript

I love it every time I bought the train and start Work It’s 6:00 a.m. in Hanoi the Vietnamese capital [Applause] Time for the daily flag raising on bin [Applause] [Applause] Square the national anthem plays and War veterans attend the [Applause] ceremony [Applause] the protracted war between what was then North and South Vietnam and the subsequent unification of the country are deeply ingrained in the memories of the Vietnamese it was on this now historic square that revolutionary communist leader hoi Min proclaimed the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945

This Mausoleum honoring the late president overlooks the square but Independence was not fully gained until the founding of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976 at the end of what is known here as the American war further east at the heart of hano’s Old Town is Juan Kim

Lake nearly 50 years after the war ended a lot of people have a positive outlook on the future Transportation infrastructure is struggling to keep Pace with the country’s rapid development including both roads and Railways being a crossing guard is an increasingly dangerous profession NN tan long has overseen this Crossing for 12 years

He works 12-hour shifts in a job with a lot of responsibility when you work here it becomes your life in Vietnam we say you have to carry your fate with you I was almost 30 when I started working here and I’d had a range of different jobs before that working here is my

Fate Long’s mother was similarly destined to work for the railways the highly confined surroundings mean the trains rattling through inevitably dictate the rhythm of locals lives including nin tan hangs she was is a crossing guard here herself for over three decades and has been living here just as

Long I thought it would be a good idea with my job to use the plot of land and build a house for us here the railway had no objections and we’re still here today my oldest son has also been living here for years once his shift is over long takes

His birds and walks the short distance along the tracks back Home it’s now time for lunch with his wife his children and his mother after Sundown there’s a heartier range of food available in hanoi’s Old Town Vietnamese cuisine is extremely varied it’s especially here on tahay Yin Street also known as beer Street it’s a hot spot among hanoi’s evening Revelers just to the South is Juan Kim Lake This song is about taking the train Home because not far from the lake is hano’s main railway station the ticket counter is in the main waiting Hall train travel in Vietnam is straightforward we have tickets for the se1 at 10:15 The Saigon Express number One Vietnam’s rail network was built during the French Colonial period and has played a prominent role in the country’s history recounted To Us by Tran vanon ban1 train tickets are asked to come to the station he’s a frequent traveler on this train the railways are an important symbol for the 79-year-old War Veteran our train departs on time Our journey will take us from north to south in this thin Coastal country and will last over 32 hours our route will take us right past the South China Sea our journey will cross almost the entire length of Vietnam around 1700 km from Hanoi to hoochi Min City previously known as

Saigon but our train will first take us past a rather special kind of attraction donga or Railway Street where NN juanin runs one of the many cafes lining the train tracks restaurants here used to use waiters who would hop across the tracks to serve customers a perilous practice that is now

Prohibited there are fewer trains now they used to come almost every hour the schedule dictates my life and my child she’s been seeing the trains pass by for eight years and there’s no danger now the tourists are safe too because the cafe owners are responsible for Them thrill seeking tourists are good business for Lynn the north south line was built to be the backbone of the country which as our train driver noen quanqi knows also led to its repeated destruction the route was again complete one year after the reunification of Vietnam since the liberation of South Vietnam and the reunification of the country trains have resumed from Hanoi to Saigon and brought citizens from both parts of the country closer together with each reunification Express we bring people from the north to the South and vice Versa it’s a train that is a symbol and physical manifestation of the country’s reunification a train of national reconciliation of a people once bitterly divided half a century later it’s a scenario that’s hard to imagine the train is a comfortable ride for nighttime Travelers and it’s quiet enough for us

To visit Tran vanon ban in his compartment he joined the Communist Viet Kong forces based in the north of the country in 1967 my family received four notifications of my death in 1968 1970 1972 and 1974 not just one but four times you can imagine it was a huge

Surprise for my family when I came home I’d been declared dead four times and still came back alive Bond’s mother had even built an altar for her son it stood at her home for 8 years until Bon returned home in 1976 he removed the altar himself Bon has since devoted his life

To searching for the remains of Fallen Soldiers the next morning we visit the van long Nature Reserve near nin bin where we joined tilo NAD the German biologist came to Vietnam in the early 1990s and has since dedicated his life to the conservation of rare Primates he founded the first wildlife sanctuary of its kind in the Indochina region in 1993 the sanctuary gives animals freed from poachers a new home one of his primary focuses is deur Langer a critically endangered species of monkey right at the start like a gift

From God we were able to seize two of these animals from poaches and the endangered primate rescue center was born T was its director for 25 years he and the local conservationists played a big part in ensuring that primates like the delor lers have survived into the New

Millennium the aim is for the animals to one day be returned to the [Applause] wild we accompany tilo as he makes his way to the jangan a UNESCO world heritage site and to an island where the now 82-year-old once released a number of the Monkeys the langers with white pants as they’re also called have seen their numbers rise back up to around 200 te our aim is of course to build up a viable population but that kind of thing is going to take several decades a viable population means between 500 and a thousand

Animals and it takes a lot of time for a population of that size to build Up back aboard the reunification Express a new day Dawns and it’s breakfast Time passengers are served in their seats coffee and the traditional morning Soup almost 80% of the strategically important Railway line was destroyed during the Vietnam war of the 1300 or so Bridges an estimated 1,000 were reduced to ruins although for Tran van ban the loss of soldiers lives was far Worse we knew that a lot of us would end up dead we dug Graves for ourselves before each battle we gather together and promis that after The Liberation the survivors would bring the bodies of the men who died back to their mothers B took his first ever trip on the train in

1978 he dug up the remains of 34 comrades and delivered their death certificates to their families in Person fighting was especially fierce in the province of Quang Chi the 17th parallel roughly coincided with the border that had been drawn up between North and South Vietnam after the departure of French Colonial forces in 1954 the area would later be witnessed to some of the bloodiest

Battles of the war with memorials now honoring the casualties such as this one in what was then North Vietnam we follow ban on this bridge across the hen long river until 1975 part of the border between North Vietnam and the US backed South this Monument commemorates the separation of

Families Bon says the bridge is a reconstruction of the original which was destroyed by an American air strike in 1972 he has long forgotten the Border he is originally from the north but married a woman from the south where he now lives and his search for the remains of

Fallen Soldiers continues to this day regardless of who they fought for today I cross this bridge not as a soldier but while thinking about the Reconstruction of our country and how to heal the wounds caused by the war bond has commuted between the North and South of Vietnam over 40 times on the

Reunification express our journey progresses further south past the farms and Fields that dominate the country’s landscape about 700 km later we arrive in Way was the capital of Vietnam during the nwin dynasty from 1802 to 1945 one physical Legacy of the period is the Citadel the palatial residence of the Royal Family Court etiquette and ceremonial Customs such as music and dance were very important to the Emperors we’re granted backstage access to the royal ball of H the dancers are preparing for a Performance Vietnamese Court music dates back to the 13th century but it was during the later NN Dynasty that it reached its Pinnacle with the music serving to demonstrate the emperor’s power and Longevity one frequently performed dance is the L Kong quad ladang is based on Buddhist Traditions it’s centers on the custom of praying six times with each prayer accompanied by a symbolic offering to Buddha incents flowers tea fruit food and lanterns the dance was later expanded and would often be performed to Mark the

Birthday of The Emperor’s mother and in this Orchestra the drum plays a pivotal Part Court music was seen as an expression of reverence towards Emperors and gods Alike dances like this one are now also performed at festivals in 200 three Vietnamese Court music was recognized by UNESCO as part of the intangible cultural heritage of [Applause] humanity whe lies on the Huang kachan or Perfume River and right next door is the dong ba Market the market opened in 1899 and the countless stalls here mostly run by women Hawk all sorts of food some as fresh as they Come the market attracts 7,000 visitors daily many of them on mopeds it’s now time for us to return to the railway station which also has a spacious waiting Room shortly before departure the doors to the platform open tickets are Digital lunchtime is now approaching Nin Quang he is happy to be filmed while he cooks he’s been serving passengers on the reunification Express for 10 years his hobby traveling of course He is content with his Job the work isn’t terribly hard I cook for an average of 100 to 120 people a day the job earns me enough to support my family the meals are freshly prepared and delivered to passenger Compartments condu Dr May Vu Tang is serving he also sees the reunification Express as symbolic I’ve been working for the railroad for 17 years now working on the reunification Express is really interesting because you get to meet people and see a lot of different places compared to other jobs it’s a real

Pleasure to work here D High in central Vietnam is the next Highlight at 70 M long it’s the largest freshwat Lagoon in Southeast Asia the majority of people in Viet Nam do not adhere to one belief system they tend to follow one or several folk religions or an amalgamation of classical faiths today we will see the topping out

Ceremony for this house of Faith with construction work basically [Laughter] Complete What else the ceremony is conducted by a monk the ground floor will host a cafe while the stories higher up are still being finished it’s Vietnamese custom to celebrate a new building being constructed the prayers are for our ancestors the ceremony is to bring good

Luck to the owner to drive away evil and protect against unemployment it’s a really old Vietnamese custom Distributing money is also part of the ceremony before the Earthly wealth is consigned to a fire an offering to those in the afterlife the most spectacular section of our journey aboard the reunification Express is now Beginning the train passes beneath the de High van the ocean Cloud pass Trains have to set off from Hanoi at night to allow passengers to appreciate this stretch during daylight That many passengers take the train just because of the breathtaking views going by train is safer cheaper than by car plus I wanted to see the scenery at the cloud Parks the xang Shen mountains constitute a kind of meteorological border between North and South Vietnam a top tourist destination and Paradise for bikers the ocean Cloud pass Rises almost 500 M from sea [Applause] [Applause] level We reach our next stop a few kilometers from the top of the pass Danang is a Terminus station so the engine has to be coupled onto the other end of the train which gives us a brief opportunity to look around the coastal city with a population of around a million Danang is

Famed for its beaches the first US combat troops landed nearby during the Vietnam war the Americans set up a vital air base in Danang which subsequently grew to become one of the biggest cities in South Vietnam a few kilometers further south we visit Hoan the Old Town enjoyed the rare fate of not being destroyed during the Vietnam war and today boasts UNESCO world heritage status before our train journey continues we’ve arranged to meet someone outside Town out on the tubon river Vu Leu tries to attract fish by hitting an ore against his boat

He’s always lived here and has mastered the art of coaxing his prey towards his round basket boat I was nine when I learned how to swim and I’ve Been Working On The Water ever since I’ve never done anything else I go out in this round boat and every day I

Managed to catch a few kilos of fish today is unfortunately an exception for the 62-year-old perhaps tomorrow’s Hall will be better we then return to the station in danan The reunification Express sets off once again in the afternoon since since the narrow tracks were built by the French the train is often called the tgv after the famous high-speed French train around a quarter of the 1300 bridges are in need of renovation night descends early and swiftly in Vietnam we now get ready for our second night aboard the train passengers used to be able to take a little detour here up to Dalat at an altitude of almost 1,500 M this delightful little station was built by the French in 1938 with touches of Art Deco Style the railway was attacked by the Viet Kong during the Vietnam war the route was discontinued in 1968 a short tourist service was later introduced featuring this steam locomotive we meet n duk behind the station he was a driver during the war decades later in the early 1990s he drove the Cog Railway

Train and remained at the controls right up to its end I was the last steam engine driver for the Old Railway I was really sad when I had to stop in 2016 this locomotive was my place of work and I have very fond memories of it it feels

Like an old friend I really miss it the temperate climate was one reason why the French founded the town of dalat building a range of hotels and other buildings the railway reached delat in 1932 which was eventually dubbed little Paris the city is now home to over 200,000

People we then take a different kind of trip with the easy Riders Motorcycle Club its members have been hitting the road together in the area around delat for over a quarter of a century their itinerary includes multi-day tours and day trips but the club was not originally founded for the sheer Joy of motorcycling it was more out of necessity with members

Turning a hobby into an occupation as 73-year-old Hong explains after reunification older people had difficulty finding a job and we started showing foreign visitors around the area English wasn’t commonly spoken back then but a lot of our members could they were teachers professors or army Officers after a short ride they show us a popular local attraction the area around the lot is known for its waterfalls and we visit one in Naman it’s named after a supposedly elephant-like rock at the water’s edge although we were unable to spot it 30 m high it’s one of the most

Frequently visited waterfalls in the area we are now back on board the reunification Express for the final leg of our journey in the early hours just a few kilometers to go until we reach hoochi Min City our second morning on the Train Lin T high is old enough to remember when it wasn’t possible to take the train from north to south it’s great to see our country unified whenever I take this train now I no longer notice any differences between the North and South that’s why I love riding on this train

Yeah it’s 6:30 a.m. as we pull into hoochi Min City Station the reunification Express arrives just 20 minutes behind schedule despite having traveled 1,700 km the train is not only a symbol of the country’s Unity it’s also brought people from the two once hostile parts of the country a little bit closer while making a small contribution to the reconciliation of North and South Vietnam The Saigon sign still adorns the station people haven’t necessarily gotten used to the new name hoim Min City the central post office and its Barrel vaed main hall are yet another reminder of the French Colonial period a portrait of the communist leader hoi Min Towers over the hall

Saigon was renamed after him in 1976 following the defeat of South Vietnam amid the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s biggest city with 9 million inhabitant people often seek Refuge from The Daily Grind by visiting a pagoda we get to accompany nen as she goes inside the bat yanha

Pagoda she lights incense to Mark the start of her visit After prayers the 47-year-old buys a piece of paper where she writes down her name and her Wishes she then hands over the note which is hung up on a spiral ornament confident that her prayers will be answered all of this is part of the ceremony in which prayers do not just focus on the well-being of the individual and their loved ones everyone in my family is healthy

But I still go to the Pagoda to pray for a peaceful life and for Career Success yes I have a couple of side jobs in addition to my main profession and I want them all to go well and I want my children to do well at school I just pray for everything to

Be all right after the ceremony hyen buys some song birds which she’ll release again shortly afterwards another ritual that’s part of visiting a pagota setting the Birds free is an offering and is supposed to create positive thoughts The Liberation of the animals is also meant to generate Good Karma an endearing to round off our enlightening journey across Vietnam

Video “By train through Vietnam – From Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 12/13/2023 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.