Hidden amidst the hectic, narrow streets of the Hanoi Old Quarter lies a funky little area, where motorbikes are no longer the biggest danger to locals stepping outside of their front door. They’re replaced by high speed trains, hurling through the residential street, mere feet away from peoples everyday lives – their dishes and laundry drying by the tracks. This is the Hanoi Train Street.
The street itself is not dissimilar to the majority of the streets in Hanoi’s old quarter – slim, tall buildings line the bustling, narrow streets. But of course with one main difference: a working railway track fills up the space where a road should be. It was pretty surreal to see locals sitting on their doorsteps going about their everyday lives – washing dishes, hanging up laundry, cleaning their motorbikes and even playing with babies. Right on the train tracks!
We arrived a bit early to see the train drive past, and definitely recommend that you do too so you can get a lay of the land. It was amazing to see the perfect unison with which all the locals vacated the street, moved items away from the tracks and took the children inside. All without so much as a glance at their watches. It was as if the train times were ingrained in their body clocks – and maybe that’s exactly what has happened after a lifetime of living by the side of the railroad!
We hung around a little bit taking silly photos, trying to guess which way the train would come from, checking the tracks to feel for the vibrations of it approaching. And then suddenly there it was. Flying towards us down the track. It might be a narrow street in the heart of the city but that sure didn’t mean that the train would slow down.
Can I get a hallelujah for creating So The Adventure Begins first GIF?! I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to come!
As it flew past us we were separated across the tracks for what felt like an eternity as the carriages trailed behind – though I’m sure it didn’t last longer than a minute. My hair whipped around my face with the speed of it passing only a foot away from my nose. It was exhilarating to be next to something so powerful and know that, as much of a novelty as it was for us, it was simply routine for those living here.
FINDING THE HANOI TRAIN STREET
Okay so, onto the low down so that you can experience this unusual Hanoi Street for yourself.
Where to watch:
There are a number of spots along the track where you can watch the train speed by. We opted to go for a segment nearest the old quarter in order to walk there. You can head to the same spot following the map below, or just use it to guide you in the right direction.
The train street lies on a small street between Kham Tien and Le Duan, the exact lane the train passes along is called Ngo 224 Le Duan. It is walkable from the old quarter, and it will take you about 35-40 minutes to walk – however we were walking at speed and we are also well adapted to the heat. Try Uber or Grab if you are wanting to get a ride there.
When to head there:
There are two trains which run along this route every day, one at 3:30pm and one at 7:30pm. We opted to watch the 3:30pm train for the daylight and photo taking opportunities. Aim to be at the train street around 3pm in order to make sure you are there in plenty time and find a safe spot to watch from. The train comes from the South so you know which way to keep an eye out!
Hopefully it goes without saying that these are legit trains, and not to be messed with. They will not and CANNOT stop if you overstay your time on the tracks. It’s never going to be worth the photo, so don’t be silly. Find a spot at the side of the track and let it pass by without putting anyone in danger (don’t do like some silly tourists we saw and stand in the middle of the track for as long as possible).
Next up for us on the train hunt will be the train market street in Bangkok. Any other interesting places to see how life has grown around train tracks?! Let us know in the comments!
For more must see things to do in Hanoi, check out our Hanoi Wanderlist (coming soon). For inspiration when planning you trip to Vietnam check out our Ultimate Vietnam Wanderlist (coming soon) – which covers all the must have experiences on offer in Vietnam.