Meet the Vietnamese Families Living on Hanoi's Train Street

Life on Train Street
Life on Train Street | © Scott Pocock/Culture Trip

In the Old Quarter of Hanoi, a short walk from the landmark Hoan Kiem Lake, there is a street unlike any other you will ever see. Most people refer to it simply as Train Street. For the Hanoians who live along this slice of track, it is their home. It’s where kids play, laundry hangs, men shout and moms gossip as they hover over pots of steaming broth. It’s a normal Vietnamese community—well, almost.

A Day in the Vietnamese life

If you ignore the two steel tracks weaving a parallel arch through this neighborhood, you’d have a hard time distinguishing it from any of the dozens of other narrow alleys cutting jagged paths through the cement landscape of old Hanoi. Lush trees dangle over head, while uneven stones leave you staggering every couple of steps. Delicious aromas waft from kitchen windows, while smog hangs in the air and leaves a faint taste of exhaust on your tongue. Train street is just like many other similar streets throughout Vietnam.

Street life
Balancing
Doing the washing up
Street life
Family time
A normal day
Weighing in

When the trains come

The trains come rumbling through twice a day, at 3:30pm and 7:30pm. There’s no warning siren, and certainly no wild panic as residents flee the oncoming behemoth. Rather, the community seems to operate on an internal clock of routines. As the time approaches, everything crowding the tracks just disappears into the tall homes and businesses lining the way. By the time the train actually arrives, there’s usually just a few curious foreigners left outside to brush noses with the iron beast.

the tracks are clear

Life goes on

Even during the hours when there’s a risk a train could fly around the corner any second, life still happens. The people living along Train Street still have errands and jobs to do. The tracks stay cleared, but the sides are tiny lanes for motorbikes and bicycles. They’re also an overflow area for when the kitchen runs out of space.

Motorbike track
Outdoor kitchen
Life must go on

And then comes the train

You can feel the tracks vibrating long before you see the train. It approaches in a low roar of screeching metal and blaring horns to shoo away the last few stragglers who’ve grown accustomed to the train and no longer fear it, or those moronic tourists who play chicken with the train for a bit of adrenaline. The train itself is long, painted blue and red. When it goes by, the train leaves gusts of smoke and dust. It’s a wild sensation to be on a tiny street next to a rumbling giant.

Here comes the train

Back to normal

And then, like water behind a boat, life spills back onto the tracks. The kids are let outside to play again, and watchful grandmas perch on their stools to keep an eye on the comings and goings of daily life. The people who live on Train Street have developed a harmonious coexistence with the dangers inherent to their community. Resilience is synonymous with Vietnamese, and this unique street is one of the best showcases.

Train Street, Ngõ 224 Lê Duẩn, Hanoi

The train disappears and street life returns
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article