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Hanoi Train Street – Life Along The 120-Year-Old Railway

The train street is an emerging tourist attraction in Hanoi, Vietnam, attracting hundreds of visitors daily. However, it has soon become a controversial site due to the safety of the railway. Should it be closed or still open for people to explore a unique way of life in Hanoi? While this question has not been answered, the train street still operates openly in ‘secret.’

Scroll down to explore the Hanoi Train Street and discover why it is named one of the most dangerous railways in the world.

What Is The Train Street?

Train Street is a 2-kilometer railway track connecting a few streets of Hanoi. It is part of the Hanoi railway, built in 1902 for transport by the French when they ruled Vietnam. Currently, the railway section is still operating effectively. The train to and from Hanoi station passes through residential communities on both sides of the train line. This residential area is called Train Street.

The street starts at Phung Hung and ends at Le Duan. At the beginning of Phung Hung Street, the train runs on the elevated road past the mural wall – a check-in point for Hanoi people. It continues to Hanoi station and heads towards the northern mountainous provinces.

Considered “one of the most dangerous railways in the world,” the more dangerous it is, the more famous this place becomes. Unique life makes it the hotspot tourists should not miss when visiting Hanoi.

How Is Life Along The 120-Year-Old Railway?

Life along the railway is no different than in any other part of the city, except a train goes in front of your doors six or seven times a day. While the standard railway corridor area requires at least 5 meters for safety, houses on this street are only about 3 meters from the track. You think that’s crazy? Wait until you see the narrowest section on the street when this distance is only 1 meter.

Residents use the little space between the track and their houses to do laundry, cook, and park their scooters. It’s also a public space for reading, chatting with neighbors, enjoying the sunshine on beautiful days, and the playground for children.

Looking at life here, we may feel they are risking their lives, but people have lived that way for decades. Train honking is an everyday thing, just like eating, drinking, and sleeping. Sometimes, I wonder if they are woken up by it every night or are so familiar with the noise that they don’t even realize that a train has just passed.

How And When To Visit Train Street?

The train street is only about 2 kilometers from Hoan Kiem Lake. There are a few entrances to this area. You can enter from the railway crossing Dien Bien Phu, Tran Phu, Nguyen Khuyen, Kham Thien, and Phuong Mai streets. You can also find two stairways to get into this place on Phung Hung Street, but usually, two guards won’t let you except on weekends and holidays. 

Seeing the business opportunity, cafes open on both sides of the train line, one next to each other, making this street one of the busiest places in the city. Tourists come here to get some adrenaline hits when the train runs just by their faces.

The street parallel to Phung Hung Street is the busiest with tourists, while the one parallel to Le Duan Street is much quieter. 5 to 8 trains run through these places daily, morning, afternoon, and evening.

During the day, when it’s quieter, you can walk and explore the place and local life. Return in the evening when cafes light up with hundreds of colorful lanterns, tables, and chairs lining the track. The plain-looking morning street is in its night party outfit. Bustling and lively.

The question of closing or opening the train street remains unanswered, so visitors might not be allowed to enter it in some days. But don’t worry. Look for a cafe owner, and you are guaranteed to enter. We are Hanoians, we have our ways to solve everything.

What Is Waiting For You When Having Coffee at Train Street?

Cafes use small tables and chairs to save space. Guests can sit on the 2nd floor for a better view or on the 1st floor to be closer to the adventurous feeling when the train rushes past them.

The cafe’s menu is quite diverse, with drinks and food. The prices are higher than those in the Beer Quarter. I paid VND 50,000 for a beer bottle and VND 90,000 for a plate of fried rice. Food is just so-so. But think, it’s the place where I paid.

For those who want to eat better, I recommend going a little bit further to Tong Duy Tan Food Street, which is close to the intersection of Phung Hung and Dien Bien Phu. There are dozens of restaurants with good food to choose from. But make sure to return to the street on time. You surely don’t want to miss the train—your main reason for being here. Some cafes have train schedules on the wall for visitors to save time or share with friends.

I visited the train street when the night fell; it was chaotic there. Hundreds of tourists gather. Some drank coffee, others walked on the track, sat in the middle of the train line for photos, and leaned on the old walls, waiting patiently for the moment.

Then, a specific, loud sound comes. Even though I didn’t see its metal mass, I knew I wouldn’t wait long before the train approached. That’s when the atmosphere was most hysterical. Local people and cafe staff began to shout; tourists frantically moved off the track. Believe me, a race of adrenaline was proof of how close the train was coming. Then I saw bright headlights flashing, horns blaring, and wheels chugging on the tracks. Those who couldn’t get into any cafe hugged the wall. My heart was pounding, and my mind was going blank as the intimidating beast rushed in front of me, only about 40 centimeters away.

That feeling was not something I would ever expect to experience. The train was too close for comfort. Somehow, I thought it was a cool place to have, maybe, one drink. More than that, you’re taking life into your own hands.

The exact second the train passed, everyone ran out and crossed the tracks as if nothing had happened.

Should Train Street Be Closed?

Vietnam Railway Corporation once proposed stopping trading and gatherings in the train street area because it feared large groups of people would affect railway safety. It also believes that cafes are opened too close to the train tracks, while the minimum distance of the security corridor is 5 meters.

Meanwhile, many other opinions say that the prohibition will result in the loss of a unique tourist attraction in Hanoi.

Look at the neighboring country, Thailand. Its capital, Bangkok, is well known for the Mae Klong market, located next to a train track. While visitors will have to drive for one hour to get to the Mae Klong train market, the Hanoi train street is located right in the middle of the city and is very convenient to visit.

Instead of closing it, Hanoi needs to find a more effective way to manage it, in my opinion. For example, alcoholic beverages should not be sold in this area. Train Street is the daily life of a part of Hanoians and a very special and memorable Hanoi for tourists.

In fact, at the end of 2019, Hanoi prohibited tourists from visiting and gathering in the railway area. However, after COVID-19, cafes returned to operating, and travelers continued to come. No matter what, having a coffee at the train line is Hanoi’s most thrilling and interesting experience.

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