from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam….heading northwards
A smallish hill rises steeply in silhouette from the vast flat rice paddy plain. But it’s the background that grabs my attention and takes my breath away. The black night merges into indigo blue and a stunning display of deep pink and purple grandeur sweeps across the sky. Never before have I witnessed such a rich sunrise. Raw beauty. An exclamation of praise.
The colours faded and the sky lightened, revealing surprises and prompting reminiscences.
“Look Mama! I still like seeing water buffalo wallowing in the mud.”
“Look at that Mum. It looks like the Plain of Jars.” Only this time the huge boulders dotting the landscape were not manmade.
“Look at that Mama! It looks like the Killing Fields.” Will every leafy orchard be doomed to be such a grim reminder for Tgirl4?
Peering through the other window we’d have thought we were not in Cambodia or Laos, but in Mexico. Cacti struggled up out of sandy soil and square concrete houses stood in clusters. Although they appeared flat-roofed, the roofs actually sloped down at the back, disguised by uniformly high sides of the houses.
Were we really in Vietnam?
Ah yes, we were. Conical hats on almost every head set these rice paddies apart from all the others we have seen, journeyed past, walked through. But like the others, these ones were being tended by bent-in-half women, and had boys and men leading oxen along the raised dirt paths separating one paddy from the next.
Variations on this view would continue all day long, all the way to the gentle pink sunset out the other side of the train. It was a view that would be broken by occasional forays through dark tunnels, even less frequent sightings of built-up communities, welcome glimpses of the coast, complete with blue and red fishing boats moored in quiet bays, and colourfully painted concrete tombs standing in the fields as reminders of the past.
On we travel through the darkness, up along the South China Sea coast, a mere 50km away from the Lao border. Northwards, northwards, clickety-clacking along the tracks, the carriages swaying from side to side.