Douglas Pyper meets the men who have time and time again tried to kill him, and finds himself oddly sympathetic to these kings of the road. Photo by Francis Roux
Flying (unless of course you’re scared of it) is a fairly pleasant and very quick way to get from one place to another. Nothing is required of you, other than to turn up on time, sit, watch films and eat the neatly packaged food and drink that’s brought to you. Apart from seeing the route map on the screen in front of you or, occasionally, the lights of cities far below, there is no connection between you and the places you’re flying over. Stepping off the plane can be a strange and disconnected feeling, like you’ve appeared in the country of your destination by falling down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole.
A French colonial building built in 1902, Gare Hanoi, also known as Tran Quy Cap, Hang Co or Le Duan station, takes pride of place at 120 Le Duan. It stands like a proud being with a protruding, puffed-out chest, but it didn’t always look the way it does today. December 1972 saw the central building become flattened by American bombs. And so, in 1976 the grey concrete structure that there stands today was built, dividing the two remaining yellow buildings.
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go,” said the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. “I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”