I’d been looking forward to this part of my trip since I first read through my itinerary two weeks previously. I’d taken many train journeys in my time, but I’d never spent a night on one. I was excited but perhaps slightly apprehensive at the same time about taking this rail journey.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of Hanoi behind, I headed north to the rolling hills of Sapa. This was to be my first time on an overnight train journey. Did I feel anxious? A little. However, I was also equally excited.
Sapa has a booming tourism trade but is still one of the less travelled areas in Vietnam. Known for its iconic northern Vietnam landscape of white cliffs, it makes for fascinating viewing even on a cloudy day.
As I waited on the platform late that night with my small overnight bag, I looked around at the other passengers and wondered who I’d be sharing my cabin with. When it was time to board, I pulled myself up onto the train and made my way to the cabin that I would be sharing with three other people, one of them being my guide. Our cabin was already occupied by a lovely German couple, and they seemed to have already made themselves quite comfortable and at home.
Soon after I managed to drift off to sleep, I was awoken as the train stopped abruptly at around midnight. I glanced out of the window, not expecting to see too much. What I did see slightly amused me. We’d stopped at a train station, and I could see the platform filled with people. There didn’t appear to be any urgency to board the train, but I soon realised that they were never planning onboarding. It appeared to be a party or gathering of around 20 people. There were tables and chairs on the platform, and Vietnamese folk music playing. I’m guessing that the train driver decided to join the party, as we waited for over an hour to leave again.
Having returned to my slumber I wasn’t woken until I heard a loud knock on the cabin door at 7 am. We were 2 hours late arriving. Was the midnight party stop to blame?
We were still a good 20 minutes away so I took this opportunity to glance out of the window at the beautiful scenery that enveloped us. Paddy fields and cascading rice terraces were on both sides of the track and stretching for as far as the eye could see. We passed many wooden houses along the railway line, and children with big smiles waved at us.
My adventure to this region had already begun. I couldn’t wait to step off and start exploring!