VIETNAM | The Train from Hanoi to Sapa | Lakad Pilipinas

Hanoi to Sapa Vietnam

Coming from Hue’s relative idyllic pace, we took a sixteen-hour overnight ride via Sinh Tourist’s Open Bus to the chaotic streets of Hanoi. It’s been almost a year since we first visited this northern Vietnamese city, and it felt like coming home; we’re definitely much more enamored by Hanoi than its southern counterpart, Saigon. But we were not about to stay just yet.

Hanoi Mask Shop
BACK IN HANOI’S OLD QUARTER

Arriving bleary eyed early the next morning, we dropped our backpacks at Cocoon Inn Hanoi (where we would eventually stay) asking nicely if we could deposit them for a few days while we continue our journey north. Our target destination was Sapa, one of Vietnam’s mountainous regions. We reckon we really didn’t need to bring all our bloody belongings all the way up there, we just needed a few change of clothes and our cameras with us.

Hanoi Fruit Vendors
MOTORBIKES AND BICYCLES RULE THE STREET

The plan was to take the night train from Hanoi to Sapa. Everything has already been pre-booked via Train To Sapa (USD29.00, one way) to avoid the hassle. The only problem was, it doesn’t leave until eight that evening—we still have the whole day to bum around while waiting for our ride. Not that it’s such a big problem though, Hanoi is extremely interesting, we really don’t mind being stuck here, even for a month.

Hanoi Tofu Spring Rolls
A TASTE OF HANOI’S STREET FOOD

And so, with our bags out of the way, we roamed Hanoi’s Old Quarter, sampling local dishes we’ve tried before, like the ubiquitous banh mi and pho bho combo, and taking a shot at new ones. We especially found bun dao mam tom—rice noodles, tofu, pork meat, leafy greens—to be really good! The dip, which tasted something like our very own bagoong or shrimp paste, was really strong!

St. Joseph Cathedral Hanoi
INSIDE ST. JOSEPH CATHEDRAL

We checked out old and new sites as well, finally managing to sneak inside the St. Joseph Cathedral at the heart of the Old Quarter, and having my annual out-of-the-country haircut on one of the outdoor barbers along one of the city’s narrow alleys.

Hanoi Street Barbers
HAIRCUT RIGHT ON THE SIDEWALK

As the sky darkened, we hurried back to our hostel, took a few more things with us, and walked all the way to the Ga Tran Quy Cap train station along Tran Quy Cap Road. We could’ve taken an Uber or Grab, but decided against it since we still have time and we might as well burn a few calories from all the food we ate.

Hanoi Railway Station to Sapa
THE TRAIN DEPOT AT TRAN QUY CAP ROAD

The good thing about booking our tickets with Train To Sapa was that we need not wait on the non-airconditioned station itself. They have a pre-arranged place on a nearby hotel where we could rest in comfort. The bad thing was, the language barrier made everything quite confusing, and we eventually waited for our night ride on the station itself. It wasn’t really that bad though, there were enough seats and they’re really not that uncomfortable.

Hanoi Railway Station to Sapa
LOOKING FOR OUR RIDE TO SAPA

A long sonorous sound went through the station as our train arrived. A guy from the company helped us change our vouchers for tickets and we were soon filing through the tracks and onto our designated platform.

Hanoi Railway Station to Sapa
OUR TRAIN CABIN FROM THE OUTSIDE

We were quite excited, we’re suckers for train rides. We’ve done a ten-hour countryside ride from Yangon to Mandalay in Myanmar before, we did the scenic Sri Lankan train from Ella to Colombo, and the equally stunning Jakarta to Bandung train ride in Indonesia, and on this same trip, a ride on a royal train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville in Cambodia.

Hanoi Train to Sapa
OUTWARD APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING

But on most of these, we were either on the mid-level carriages or the cheapest ones. This time though, we’re riding on cabins—like Hogwarts Express-like cabins! We were traveling at night though, so there’s really not much we can see from our window, but the upside is that we get to save time and a bit of money from lodging costs—this was gonna be our room for the night.

Hanoi Train to Sapa
INSIDE THE DREAM TRAIN SP4

The train doesn’t look like much from the outside, it looked like any other old train, to be honest. But once inside our carriage, it transformed to something more elegant; the narrow hallways were paneled with wood, it has a cold and hot water dispenser (perfect if we brought instant noodles and coffee with us, which we didn’t) and more importantly, clean and decent toilet with bidet and water! Imagine that.

Hanoi Train to Sapa Toilet
WESTERN-STYLE TOILET WITH BIDET

Our tickets come with complimentary wet towels, bottles of mineral water, some fruits, and cookies. We were scolding ourselves as we settled inside our cabin for not bringing some chips with us. It would’ve been nice to have some snacks of our choice while the train chugs through the urban areas of Hanoi (where we could still see what’s going on outside).

Hanoi Train to Sapa Lavatory
DRINKING STATION AND LAVATORY

The cabin itself is fitted with four beds, two on the lower levels and two above. We were billeted with a friendly couple from Belgium who brought in some wine with them. Darn it. We were just so unprepared! To think that we had a full day to prepare for this, lol!

Cabin Train Hanoi to Sapa
OUR ROOM FOR THE NIGHT

We really don’t mind having other people with us since most of those taking the train from Hanoi to Sapa are fellow travelers. Stories from the road soon became the topic in the room. If you’re really not too keen on having strangers with you, you can pre-book a VIP two-bed cabin (USD60.00, one way).

Into dreamland we all went an hour or so after we departed Hanoi. It was fully dark outside and the rhythmic chug of the wheels on the tracks soon put us all to sleep.

Hanoi Train to Sapa
ARRIVED AT LAO CAI EARLY IN THE MORNING

We woke early the next morning as sunlight filtered through the windows, we were almost in Sapa. We stopped and alighted at the Lao Cai Railway Station where van drivers were waiting, holding names for arriving passengers. Ours though seemed to have woken up later than usual, making us take the local van to Sapa instead. The fare isn’t really that expensive and it was such a fun ride going up the mountains with locals—they seemed like a bunch of kids (they’re full grown adults) going to school, everybody knows everybody, and they they’re all laughing all the way through the ride—that we actually found it favorable that our driver didn’t appear to pick us at the station.

Lake Sapa Vietnam
LAKESIDE SAPA

Mountains Sapa Vietnam
THE MOUNTAINS OF SAPA

The weather started to change as we ascended. Clouds soon filled the road, the wind becoming much colder. Sometimes the mist would part and we’d see neat terraces of lush rice paddies far below. We were giddy with excitement, we can’t wait for Sapa!

~ OUR TRAIN RIDE WAS MADE POSSIBLE BY TRAIN TO SAPA. VIEWS AND OPINIONS ALL MINE.

 

Train To Sapa by Vietnam Tour
Address: 3rd Floor, Naforimex Building, No. 40 Hai Ba Trung Str, Hanoi City, Vietnam
Contact Number: +(84) 915 820-058
Email: ticket@traintosapa.com
Website | Facebook

►► BOOK A TWO-DAY TREKKING TOUR OF SAPA FROM HANOI






Posted by Christian Sangoyo on Tuesday, November 7, 2017

0 comments

Post a Comment