Despite the barriers prohibiting entry to Hanoi’s famous Train Street, it is still a popular destination for many foreign visitors who say it would be a “waste” to close down the attraction.
Hanoi Train Street, famous for its makeshift coffee shops along the train track, runs for around two kilometers from Le Duan through Tran Phu, Cua Dong and Phung Hung Streets in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
While one part of its was blocked off last September due to safety concerns, another part between Tran Phu and Dien Bien Phu streets is not and many foreign tourists can still be found there.
“From a safety perspective, sitting to enjoy coffee along the train track could be worrying, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else in the world, so it’s unique,” Kathy, a female foreign tourist said.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a train running so close to houses and the sight is really spectacular,” said John, also a tourist.
For John, sitting next to the track and watching the train run through rows of old houses was a “one-of-a-kind and unique experience.”
Tourists film a train with their phones as it runs through old houses and coffee shops on Hanoi Train Street, March 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
“I’ve never seen a place like this,” said Ann from the Philippines. “Back home, it’s really boring because there are no places like Hanoi Train Street. We wish to have an interesting experience like everyone, and I’d like to introduce my friends to this place.”
Train Street became famous in 2014, when the sight of a train running right through the heart of a densely packed residential area was published in foreign newspapers and magazines, especially in the U.S and U.K.
It was closed for a while in 2019 over safety concerns, before it was hit by Covid-19. Since Vietnam reopened tourism in March last year, the street has again started drawing crowds of tourists.
Hanoi authorities shut down coffee shops and selfie hotspots and set up barriers along the street as a safety measure. The ban came a couple days before a South Korean tourist was hit by a train while slipping through the barrier despite the siren indicating a train’s arrival going off. The person was not seriously injured and managed to leave the place afterward.
However, many foreigners said it would be “really wasteful” to close down Hanoi Train Street, saying it is an internationally famous site and even people who have never been to Vietnam known about it.
“It’s a pity. It’s not easy to visit Train Street these days. I don’t understand why it was closed for tourists. Is it not safe? It’s not like all tourists have accidents here,” Kathy said.
Kathy said she saw a police officer there who did not stop her from entering the street.
Ann said most tourists know about the train schedules hung in front of every coffee shop and she wondered if it is really necessary to ban visitors from visiting the street.
Instead of closing down the tourist attraction, the government should turn it into a safe tourist hotpot to provide livelihood for local people and boost tourism revenues.
“I’m sure all visitors want to visit here. This is a definite must-visit when in Hanoi, so it shouldn’t be banned,” Ann added.
A representative from Hang Bong Ward in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem District said it is difficult to prevent foreign tourists from entering the Hanoi Train Street.
In addition to the language barrier, local authorities also grapple with personnel shortages, the representative said.
Travel firms lead large groups of foreign tourists there, which has somewhat “pacified” authorities, the representative added.
Train streets have long existed in Asia and are often tourist gems.
In Thailand, Maeklong Market, which spans for over 100 meters along the railway near the Mae Klong Railway Station, has become a famous tourist attraction with trains running at fixed times.
Shifen Old Streets in Taiwan is famous for its collection of lanes and alleys in and around the Shifen railway station area.
*Tourists’ names have been changed for anonymousity.
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