Ways to Pass Time on a Train

I DON’T WANT TO COUNT the number of hours I’ve spent riding trains. More than I care to admit, though enough to brag about distances — 475 kilometers in Vietnam, over 600 in Thailand, not to mention that idiotically naive ride from Halifax to Toronto, nearly 1,000 in a single haul. I’m not sure why travellers love trains. They’re polarizing transport: whereas buses are almost … Continue reading Ways to Pass Time on a Train

Hospitality in Savannakhet: The Lovely Ladies of Laos

WE WERE BROKE when we stepped off the bus in Savannakhet. Not broke like we didn’t have cash–we had a few hundred bucks for the coming week of travel, but it was in all the wrong currencies. A few thousand Vietnamese dong, a hundred-ish Philippine pesos, 22 American dollars. It was downright sloppy time management. We arrived in Savannakhet a few hours after sundown on … Continue reading Hospitality in Savannakhet: The Lovely Ladies of Laos

Postcard: The Hedonism of Bui Vien, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY is aggressively hedonistic—drive fast, drink lots, eat cheap. Nowhere is this more evident than Bui Vien. It is Vietnam’s own Khao San Road, a wild and colourful stretch where ragged dreadlocked travelers constantly laugh at touts for foot massages and happy hours. I wanted to stay out and drink but I didn’t want to stay out or drink there; the same … Continue reading Postcard: The Hedonism of Bui Vien, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Notes From a Vietnam Train: Is Authentic Travel Possible When Gazing Out a Train Window for 16 Straight Hours?

RIDING THE SLEEPER TRAIN is a meditative experience. You’re stuck in one place for perhaps a very long time, and come to realize that to simply sleep or read it all away is a waste of good travel. So you look out the window. What’s there? Green leaves, rice paddies, farmers in straw hats, decrepit brick homes, brown rivers, other trains, pink and yellow. It’s … Continue reading Notes From a Vietnam Train: Is Authentic Travel Possible When Gazing Out a Train Window for 16 Straight Hours?

The Viet-Lao Border: Wherein Our Bus Deserts Us on a Remote Mountain Range

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN Hue, Vietnam’s pre-communist capital, and Savannakhet, a sleepy Lao city by the Mekong River, is over 400 kilometres of thick tropical forest. The border checkpoint, somewhere in-between, lies truly in the middle of nowhere. Four hours got us this far, and it would be longer until Savannakhet: five hours by bus, and unimaginably longer if the bus, say, left without us. Which, … Continue reading The Viet-Lao Border: Wherein Our Bus Deserts Us on a Remote Mountain Range