The train street in Hanoi, an unparalleled ride
- on Jul 18, 2020       By: BN
Hanoi holds many curiosities for the traveller passing through the Vietnamese capital. This place is indeed a surprising and fascinating city where every street corner has its share of surprises. The surprise amongst the others surprises, is that you can see a train running down in the middle of a residential area of the old quarter of Hanoi.
A unique experience to enjoy
The train street, its strange name is given to a section of the railroad which crosses the heart of certain residential districts of the capital. The railroad is more than a hundred years old because it dates from the French colonial era. Waiting for the train that crosses the city between the houses has become one of Hanoi's hottest attractions. What amazes visitors is the narrowness of the passage through which the railway tracks pass. There is only between 4 and 5 metres between the two rows of houses, just enough to let the locomotive and the cars pass. When the trains pass, they squarely brush against the houses and shops huddled against each other. It’s a surprising, very photogenic vision that is highly appreciated by lovers of original images. When you watch the train pass, you can feel its breath and even touch it (though this is not recommended!). This is truly an experience reminiscent of life in Bangkok, Thailand, where a train passes through a market held on the tracks.
"It is really very surprising and impressive to see the train making its way through these dwellings very close to each other." Nicole exclaimed, a French tourist visiting Hanoi. "The train is expected to take one or two houses with it," she said with a chuckle.
Scenes from daily life in Hanoi
The passage of the train is a pretty incredible scene because like the sea during the tide, life retires from the rails to let the train pass, and resets there as soon as it leaves. It’s a well-practised daily ritual since the inhabitants of the rail know by heart the timetables for the passage of trains.
"It’s as if the schedules are engraved in me," says Ms Quynh Nguyen. "I have always lived on the rails, the train is like a friend who comes to visit me several times a day" jokes the sparkling sixty-something with a radiant smile. "Everything is set to the millimetre and accidents are rare," her husband added.
The inhabitants of this residential area are used for the passage of trains and share the rails with them. In the absence of trains, the inhabitants occupy the railroad tracks where they cook, hang up the laundry, chat among neighbours while watching the children play on the rails.
Have a coffee or eat while watching the train go by
It’s an experience, to observe this picturesque neighbourhood life while sipping a fresh fruit juice or a Vietnamese coffee in one of the stalls that have grown along the rails with the growing success of this train street. It’s quite original to have a drink on the railway, something that would be prohibited in most countries in Europe.
In another part of the city, there is an atypical restaurant which will allow you, while eating some Vietnamese specialities, to be at the front row to see the train pass. This is the Ray Quan restaurant, a place with a vintage atmosphere that Hanoi likes to see in its bustling city, where you will see the train tumble a few inches from your bowl and chopsticks. Address: 8A Nguyen Khuyen, along the railway tracks.
Where is this famous train street?
The famous train street is located in the old quarter of Hanoi at the crossroads of Dien Bien Phu and Ton That Thiep streets. After having attended this unusual spectacle, we invite you to go to Phung Hung Street which runs along the railway. Phung Hung Street is home to some beautiful old colonial mansions with beautifully preserved facades and at the end of the street, you can admire magnificent frescoes reproducing images of Hanoi from yesteryear and today. There are seventeen works that adorn the stone walls of the vaults of the viaduct over which the train passes, which were produced by South Korean and Vietnamese painters.
During the week, at the place indicated above, you can see the train passing at 19H00, 19H45, 20H30 and 22H. There are more trains during the weekend: 06H00, 09H00, 11H20, 15H20, 17H30, 18H00, 19H00, 19H45, 20H30, 21H00 and 22H. Please note that the train may be a little late.
For security reasons, tourist cafes in the train street had to close from October 12, 2019.
Residents can continue their trading activity but not by occupying the railway for the kitchen or the cafeteria etc.