Instagram famous Train Street Hanoi has been closed down by the local government authority after a train had to make an emergency stop, avoiding a near miss, due to the number of tourists swarming the tracks.
The Train Street closure has had a significant impact on local cafes and other businesses dotted along the tracks, a tourist hotspot in Hanoi‘s Old Quarter for many years
Train Street Hanoi was built during the French colonial period and, for a long time, the railway ran around the capital without any commotion. It begins at Long Bien station and ends at Le Duan Street. Interestingly, the neighborhood is only around 500 meters long, but there are many families living along the tracks. Families who have grown up with the sound of trains chugging along the tracks – it’s the norm for them.
In October 2019, just two months after my Vietnam trip, the Hanoi government ordered the closure of all cafes and businesses operating along the 117 year old tracks of Train Street. The order came after a train had to make an emergency stop and be rerouted as there were too many tourists on the tracks. If the driver had not controlled the train, it may have resulted in a catastrophe.
In recent years, the craze of daredevil selfies has led flocks of tourists to Train Street Hanoi, sitting on tracks, taking selfies with the train just seconds before it reaches them. What they don’t realise is that a train does not just drop dead in its tracks (excuse the pun). It requires time and space to stop itself from hitting careless tourists.
Twice a day, trains speed through this narrow neighbourhood. Locals have the timings down to a tee and as soon as the barriers on nearby roads roads come down, they frantically grab their bikes, tables and chairs, washing and small children from the tracks and pull them inside. The below picture was taken by me, pretty well standing in someone’s house as the train came at me, full speed.
I was lucky enough to visit Train Street on a quite day, and even walked further along the track to a quieter area to wait for the train. Back down at the popular spot, there were hundreds of tourists.
The effect of Train Street Closure
Of course the only reason for the closure was safety, first and foremost. But what does this mean for the local businesses?
The Train Street closure has had a negative impact on track-side businesses, leading to a drop in their revenue. The local business owners’ pressure was so intense that the authorities didn’t want to get involved.
The majority of people who live on Train Street Hanoi are retired.
One owner, Ha Hong Tu, has lived on Train Street for 42 years. He has a coffee shop, which he recently invested in refurbishing. Due to the closure of his cafe, he still has not been able to pay for the refurbishment.
Newer business owners on the street say that the money they earned from their businesses gave them enough to live off.
Some local business owners defied the ban completely, texting their customers an invitation to visit Train Street as their friend – of course friends and family members are still allowed to visit.
What does the future hold for Train Street Hanoi
Towards the end of 2020, some of the local businesses and cafes began to open back up quietly. With a lot of pressure on the government due to cafes and shops going out of business, it seems they have possibly turned a blind eye on the ones that have reopened.
It is feared that if tourists continue to visit Train Street and put themselves and others in danger just to get the ‘perfect picture’ the government will have to step in again and Train Street Hanoi may be closed for good.
What do you think? Should Train Street Hanoi remain closed? Or perhaps with certain restrictions in place it could remain open for business? Let me know in the comments below!