Our very own Team Leader, Phoenix, recently went on a trip to vibrant Vietnam and has returned to tell the tale of her travels. Namely, her experience of overnight sleeper trains. From the cabin accommodation to the food offered on board, Phoenix gives us her top tips on what to expect if you’re thinking of catching some ZZZ’s whilst whizzing through the Vietnamese countryside. Read on to find out more…
Before you hit the tracks…
You are advised to arrive an hour before your departure time, and luckily Hanoi train station is an easy 15-minute cab ride from the Old Quarter. The shop at the station is a bit pricier that your average shop so it’s worth getting organised and buying some snacks for your journey ahead of time. Your vouchers for the train will be at your hotel and we were advised to collect our tickets at the station, however we were nodded straight through! You’ll be pointed to your four-bed soft sleeper carriage with plenty of time to get settled.
Luggage easily slots under the bottom bunk beds and the helpful attendant advised us how to turn off the station announcements in the room, as he’d wake us in the morning when we arrived half an hour before our stop in Dong Hoi. He kindly turned down the air conditioning on request as it was set (in the usual South East Asian style) to Arctic. Brrrr. You’ll find complimentary snacks on board: we were given water, coke, bananas and Bahn Mi (bread). No one was brave enough to try the mini sandwiches containing 2% meat, but the water and bananas went down a treat! There’s a trolley lady who alas, had no pumpkin pasties or chocolate frogs for the Harry Potter fans out there but there was reasonably priced beer (20,000VND, about one pound fifty) on offer along with popcorn and pot noodles – if you are feeling brave enough to try the hot water dispenser down the hall!
The cabin is distinctly cozy (if you are planning on any cat swinging, this is sadly not an option) but four can easily sit on the bottom bunks for a chat through your adventures that day, before stretching out in bed. There’s a very small metal step to hoist yourself up to the top bunks, plus you are closer to the air con up top so if you haven’t booked the room as private, arrive early to secure the bottom bunks! There’s just the one charger in the cabin, so be prepared to share. We set off dead on 10pm and I was the first to brave the toilet. I found it no worse than any you find on a train in the south east of England, but if you’re female doing some preparatory squats ahead of your holidays to strengthen the thighs doesn’t go amiss! If all else fails use the door handle for leverage. There’s a small ablutions area for brushing your teeth after your beer and snacks before tucking up to sleep.
Time to Catch Some ZZZ’s
The blanket was big enough for me to put underneath me and wrap over the top to provide an extra level of cushioning to the mattress, which is certainly not memory-foam-soft, but definitely not China mattress-hard either. The gentle motion of the train soon had us drifting off to sleep. We were woken exactly on time in the morning as the wild green countryside of Dong Hoi zipped past, towering mountains and sturdy banana trees providing an incredible welcoming landscape. Our concierge served us coffee and tea at a small cost and before we knew it we had arrived, ready for our next adventure!
Phoenix’s final thoughts…
The overnight train is the perfect way to travel through north and central Vietnam. There’s no hassle with airport check-ins and endless waiting, simply arrive and settle into your cabin for the night. After a long day sightseeing you’ll drift off to the sleep to the rhythmic background noise of the train chugging along the tracks and when you awake you’ll catch the stunning scenery of the Vietnamese countryside with the excitement of knowing you’ve got so much more to explore.