The Cai River Railroad Bridge

Nha Trang Travel Blog

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The Cai River railroad bridge
   

Normally I don't like using maps, preferring to explore on my own and end up where I may. Venturing into the unknown always made for great adventure and discovery; what travel was all about to begin with. But after two failed attempts at setting foot on the Cai River Railroad Bridge - and no reliable maps available of the Nha Trang countryside - I decided it was finally time to throw in the towel and call in NASA. I Google Earthed Nha Trang. Satellite images showed that the best approach to my goal would be from downstream on the north side of the river.

 

I rented a motorbike for the day - primarily to ride down to Bai Dai Beach at Cam Ranh Bay for a mid-day meeting with some expat friends. With morning time to spare, I crossed the Tran Phu Bridge then turned inland along the Cai, stopping to scan its banks wherever I could.

The signal station, tunnel, and rented motorbike
At the second or third viewpoint, I finally caught sight of the railroad bridge, surprised to see it had four spans. From the rickety Vinh Ngoc bridge the other day, I was only able to see two. 

 

 My curvy road hugged the base of steep hills rising from the north bank. It narrowed to sidewalk width after passing the popular Thap Ba hot spring pools and mud baths. Then, after rounding a sharp turn, the Cai River Railroad Bridge suddenly towered before me and near it, railroad tracks disappearing into a tunnel.  I parked the bike and walked toward a yellow signal station at the tunnel entrance. The signalman shunned a photo as he sat for a morning meal but didn't object to my exploring the rocky hillside. The curved tunnel was about a hundred yards long and had sufficient width for a train and pedestrians.

Signal station
I snapped a few photos then walked to the bridge.

 

A placard indicated the bridge was built by the Japanese in 1998-99 and it sits at 1311 kilometers on the rail line from Hanoi toward  Ho Chi Minh City. Three or four people fished off a narrow walkway on the west side and from there I could see the familiar Vinh Ngoc bridge further upstream. Three others cast lines under the northern base of the bridge. A nearby stone and cement tower ruin might have been part of an older bridge and was pocked with wartime damage.

 

After lingering a long while savoring my achievement as though I had just conquered Mount Everest or walked on the moon, I lined up behind two other motorbikes to cross on the narrow walkway bolted to the east side of the bridge.

Inbound freight train
We had to wait for on-coming bikers since the grated passageway was less than a meter wide. Steel railing whizzed by at just a few inches from either side of my handlebars so there was no stopping or glancing away to admire the views.  I parked the bike again off the south end of the bridge and walked around some more. I should have stayed on the north end ten minutes longer because a freight train exited the tunnel, crossed the bridge, and sped toward Nha Trang. I'll definitely make this trip again - by bicycle - and try to catch the 10:00 a.m. train as it exits the tunnel heading into town.

 

 

 

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The Cai River railroad bridge
The Cai River railroad bridge
The signal station, tunnel, and re…
The signal station, tunnel, and r…
Signal station
Signal station
Inbound freight train
Inbound freight train
First view of the bridge from the …
First view of the bridge from the…
Tracks to the bridge
Tracks to the bridge
Placard on the bridge
Placard on the bridge
Old tower near the bridge
Old tower near the bridge
Fishing off the bridge
Fishing off the bridge
The distant Vinh Ngoc bridge
The distant Vinh Ngoc bridge
Insignia of the Vietnam railroad
Insignia of the Vietnam railroad
Tunnel exit north
Tunnel exit north
Tunnel exit south
Tunnel exit south
Waiting to cross
Waiting to cross
Tracks to Nha Trang
Tracks to Nha Trang
Nha Trang
photo by: rotorhead85