We looked for an empty seat in the dining cart, but all the workers were lying across the battered wooden benches, their legs bunched up in the air, hands or hats casually thrown across their eyes, blocking out the sun that cascaded through the dirty windows. We found an empty booth at the back of the cart, and listened to the soft snores and clinking of half filled spirit bottles with peeling labels, knocking against each other behind the skinny island bar. The chef banged some pots together, preparing our order in a filthy grey kitchen through a broken door, as the train rolled through the green paddy fields and small villages which had grown up with the weeds around the edge of the track. Stringy noodles rhythmically swayed in the chipped china bowls, and for the first time on the trip, I actually felt quite peaceful; all the madness was on the other side of the window, and for a few hours I could be a just be a spectator.

The Reunification Express runs from Hanoi to Saigon, along the spine of Vietnam, taking its time along the way.

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