Interesting experience on train to Sapa, Vietnam

Hello, I am Fabio Cappiello – an Italian guy living in Vietnam for nearly 6 months. Some people might surprise why I can live in Vietnam for such long time, right? I was suggested by my father who is working here as a representative person for his corporate a visa website for visa service. And they can offer 6-months visa for me under my father’s company guarantee.

Sapa, Vietnam
Sapa covered by cloud in spring time

One big reason I love this country because it is home country of my beautiful Vietnamese fiancée who is my father’s secretary. We are going to get marriage in spring next year. We have many hobbies which can share together; one of these is travelling. We have had some trips to visit attractions in South, Central and North Viet Nam.

I am writing about my experience travelling by night train from Ha Noi to Lao Cai which is not favorite transportation in Viet Nam with foreigners but it bought me the most realistic feeling of a Vietnamese pack-backer.

It was trip in Reunification and International labor holidays from April 30th to 5nd 2015, our group 6 people decided to climb up to Fanxipan, which is the highest mountain in Indochina. To save money, we bought the lowest-class tickets.

There are some trains with same route but different quality. Some luxury trains are for high-income passenger such as Victory, Fanxipan Express, Livitrans but some is for lower living-standard domestic travelers, exp: LC1 train. One member in our group who was born in a middle class family, he suggested us to try this train at least one time since it would give us pictures that had not been ever seen before. And I definitely agreed with this, I had different experience.

The train started journey at 21:00 from Hanoi Train Station. When I stepped up the train, I was shocked with the facilities on the train. Since it is for mostly low-income people traveling with cheap fare, it provides most basically needs: two seat wooden benches, lights, fans, and of course, no air conditioner. One of interesting truth only available on this train is that the Railway Company sells ticket for the last minute passenger when all the benches are filled, these passengers must seat on plastic chair placed at the aisle. For a long trip from Hanoi to Lao Cai, it is too inconvenient and not many people use it. But with some urgent cases, people buy this ticket and then ask others who are already on the bench to allow them to sit together “for a while”. You at first think that it’s just simple “for a while”, but actually it means you’ll share your seat for a whole trip. This is Vietnamese character: nice, helpful and easy going.

Since it was the first time I tried this transportation, I could not sleep well because of noise and uncomfortable feeling. My eye was still opening when the train passed Yen Vien Station. The door opened when a chubby 5 year old boy stepped in the train with his father. When they were finding their seats, I called him and share him the bench with us. He was such a cute, clever little guy. When my friends talked with his father and knew that they was back home for long holidays and they still felt happy when got the tickets at the last minutes of departure.

At midnight, the noise was decreased. People stopped chatting, light was out, most of traveler were sank in their sleeps. Sometimes, some cigarette addicts left their seats, moved to the corridor next to the smelly restroom. Staffs pushed cart with some snacks along cabin, call louder in order to sell something to passengers.

Luckily I am a strong man and I could continue toward to Fanxipan with a sleepless night.

By Fabio Cappiello  (Italy)

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