1. April 2018. Hanoi’s bustling, fascinating old quarter holds many secrets for those willing to do their research and delve a little deeper. Its best cafes are typically hidden away on the top floor of a dilapidated old building that can only be accessed via a narrow winding staircase at the back of an antiques shop. Similarly, some of its most atmospheric, authentic restaurants are tucked away in labyrinthine side alleys. And then there’s arguably it’s most underrated street of all, this ramshackle community set either side of an operational train track where a high-speed service still passes through twice a day.
2. April 2018. Located at number 26 Alley, Tran Phu (between Lê Duẩn and Khâm Thin streets), this is Hanoi’s amazing Train Street where locals go about their business as they would in any other part of the city. Old women hang up laundry, disheveled chickens peck away at tossed banana skins and kids dart across the tracks playing tag. On arrival I was utterly spellbound, but also bemused that it was just myself and a handful of others who’d deemed this place a worthy addition to their itinerary.
3. April 2018. The locals paid me no heed whatsoever as I wandered down the street watching them go about their business and taking my photos. Even with the address keyed into Apple Maps I’d had a tricky time finding it in the fierce afternoon sunshine. So I wasted no time at all in ordering an iced coconut latte from Tram Café, one of two places on Train Street where you can get fed and watered.
4. April 2018. While my Coconut Coffee went down a treat, it’s Train Street’s other café The Railway that makes a visit here an unmissable treat in its own right. The café is owned by Tao: an infectiously friendly Vietnamese girl who moved here in early 2018 to convert a crumbling old building into Train Street’s choice spot for weary wanderers. Don’t hesitate to dip inside for a Banh Mi sandwich or a glass of Choo-Choo beer, served with a complimentary bucket of savory nibbles. She also sells bags of premium Vietnamese filter coffee. Tao takes the time to greet each new customer personally and will even send you an email of her personal recommendations for things to see and do in Hanoi. She clearly puts her heart and soul into this little business, so much so that if you come here to watch the evening train pass through, Tao will actually present you with a certificate as a memento of surviving the train.
5. April 2018. If you want to come and see the train rattle through you’ll have to get your timings right and from what I can gather the timetable is changeable. During my visit I was told that on weekends the best time is at 15:30. I caught the Wednesday evening train at 19:30. It was quite the adrenaline rush standing just inches away from the train as at rumbled past. For the most up-to-date info on all things Train Street, get in touch with Tao personally through The Railway Facebook Page.
For more on Vietnam’s amazing capital, have a look at more My 5s from around Hanoi.
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