A vital lifeline in war and peace, Vietnam’s North-South Railway provides an all-in encounter with the country’s incredible beauty, people and history.
Just before noon each day, the southbound train from Hai Phong to Hanoi rumbles past Mrs Bay’s front room, missing her porch by no more than inches. To me, the scene looks like something from a disaster movie. With its horn blaring like the last trumpet, the huge locomotive barely squeezes through the tiny space where the railway track runs between two rows of dwellings. It’s close enough to block all the light from the windows, flap the drying laundry and silence our conversation.
Mrs Bay, a well-preserved 64-year-old, whom I’ve bumped into on a stroll, bats away my concerns.