As one of my Oxalis guides, Tang, was recommending me to take the sleeper bus from Dong Hoi to Hoi An, I was trying to recall why exactly I had booked a day train ticket (that required us to leave Phong Nha at 6:20AM). After some checking of the train schedule I remembered it was because of Seat 61's recommendation to see the route from Hue to Danang during the day, saying that it was one of the most scenic train routes in all of Vietnam (admittedly I thought the same when we cruised through one of the stops prior to Dong Hoi a few hours south of Ninh Binh). Unbelievably clear blue water and pristine beaches....
The only odd thing about the journey was as we approached Hue, loud blaring music came on, and I was thinking, "Wow, so Vietnamese trains blast music like how folks say Myanmar buses do?" But then it turned into a really pleasant announcement in English about the historical capital of Hue and how it was a UNESCO site. Some folks we met actually recommended Hue and said that it was less touristy than Hoi An. Next time, I suppose, I'll have to come back for a seafood-themed trip. (Apparently Danang itself has a lot of great seafood places.)
Is the train's food safe? I think so!
Ok, so maybe I won't eat the steamed corn because the lady de husks it with her hands and doesn't clean them between handling money and touching the corn. And maybe I didn't try the rice porridge (they tend to ignore folks who are obviously not Vietnamese-- and I was too slow every time I saw the porridge pass by). However, on the way south there was a nice lunch cart that pulled through. Handy tip: If you want food, there is actually a lady who passes by and sells lunch/meal tickets, but don't freak out if you don't buy one-- the helpful cart people will gladly tell you the price (30,000 Dong) and won't deny you lunch just because the meal ticket lady ignored you. It wasn't bad-- soy chicken with cooked veggies, rice, and soup. My point is, there are good and cheap options, and the folks who serve those who ride the train surprisingly don't jack up the prices for foreigners (seriously even the stalls at the Danang train station were selling lots of food and drinks for cheap).