I enjoy taking train rides. I think because it’s one of those means of transportation that’s not really prevalent in use here in the Philippines. Well, there’s the PNR (Philippine National Railways) alright which I have yet to try but I think it there are still a lot of work to be done there. Maybe one of these days I would try that. I was looking forward to our 9-hour train to Lao Cai that night since we’ll be sleeping in a soft-berth room. And from Lao Cai we’ll be heading of to Sapa.
Most train to Lao Cai leave at 9:15pm and would arrive the next day in Lao Cai around 5:30 am. Good thing we managed to reserve our train tickets the day before at Handspan Adventure since it’s hard to reserve train tickets here. And being a Saturday, train ticket office are closed. We got a soft-berth sleeper for 32 USD each. We killed time on another resto, Huo Guom Café near Hoan Kiem Lake after our hearty dinner at Cha Ca La Vong. Then we took a taxi going to the Train Station. A Word of Caution. Beware of unscrupulous Taxis in Hanoi, they have tampered meters which just unrealistically add its toll like very minute the meter ticks. The overpriced taxi charged us 115,000 dong. The price which is outrageous since we took another taxi from the Train Station which cost us only half of that. I’m not really sure which taxis are safe but try to flag the white cabs on the move instead of those which are just on the standby on the side streets which are blue and green cabs. We experienced a couple of these taxis with tampered meters so be very careful.
It was easy to find our section cart at the train station and pretty soon found our room. The room has 4 berths so we were riding with a couple of strangers. One seems to be a local Vietnamese already comfortably sleeping on his berth below while another seems to be an old European (judging by his accent) standing by the door. I was really curious at first why he was standing by the door at the narrow hallway. It turns out he was waiting for the comfort rooms to open. It seems that the comfort rooms seems to be open only when the train moves. You wanna know why? Well I noticed that the toilet hole goes straight down the rails. I don’t want to imagine how the train tracks looks like with all those human waste scattered about.
The soft-berth sleeper was pretty cool and comfortable throughout the ride since it has air conditioning and soft cushions. Of course you just have to get used to the bumpy ride once in a while as the train ride on its tracks on varying terrain. We arrived in Lao Cai Station by 5:30am. I wanted to get train tickets back first but it seems the ticket office opens at 8am and they only sell departure tickets on the same day. Fortunately we met Hie of the nearby Pho Cafe who helped us reserve the tickets going back to Hanoi the next day. We only paid him half and the rest would be paid once we get the tickets. There are buses going to Sapa for 30,000 VND there but we managed to get a van all for ourselves for 50,000 VND for an hour of misty drive up the mountains. Since Sapa has an elevation of 1600m, the temperature there was nice and cool. We are now in Sapa, drinking a nice cup of warm of hot choco and coffee while having breakfast at a small resto, the Little Geco,
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.