One of the most popular experiences and ways to get from city to city in Vietnam is definitely via train. Vietnam is a long narrow country so there is a train line that runs the whole length of it.
On my tour we took 3 sleeper trains, meaning we did them overnight for a long stretch of time. The first one from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang was 7 and a half hours which wasn’t too bad. We were told that this one is the nicest and most “luxurious”… however luxurious a train in Vietnam could be.
The cabins sleep four people (two sets of bunk beds) and are quite tight. It’s a struggle to fit all your bags in but we made it work. I chose the top bunk because I’m smaller and it’s easier for me to get up there. They give you a sheet, blanket and pillow for the night but luckily I had brought with me a silk sleeping bag liner that my Mum had bought 10 years previous for this exact same reason. It was a life saver as you just don’t know who has been sleeping on those beds and how recently they’ve been cleaned.
Surprisingly I actually had a really good sleep. I’m going to put this down to the fact that I’m short and didn’t feel too cramped in the beds. All the taller people on the tour didn’t have as good of a sleep as they had to bend their legs the whole night. The worst part of course was waking up at 5am to this really loud asian music they start playing through the speakers and then having to figure out if it’s really worth using the bathroom on the train (It’s not. Hold it until you get off if you can).
The next one from Nha Trang to Da Nang is about 9 hours. Although it was supposed to be not as nice I kind of found it just the same. I chose the same bed as last time (top left) as I figured it had given me a good sleep before so I might as well try it again. I got a really good sleep again on this train despite again having to wake up ridiculously early to get off. I’ve learnt at this stage to board the train in my pyjamas and get off the train in my pyjamas. It’s not worth queuing to use the one bathroom at the end of the carriage to then try and change inside it whilst the train is throwing you from side to side.
The final sleeper train was the longest and the one I probably had the worst sleep on. It was 14 hours from Da Nang to Hanoi (We then had to drive a few hours out to Halong Bay afterwards which didn’t help). We got on this one quite early at night so all bought vodka and juice and sat together drinking and telling stories. It was really nice bonding with everyone and getting to know everyone a little better. This is actually when I previewed my poem for everyone! When it was time to sleep I found it harder this time because the track was a bit more rickety and it threw you around a bit more. For some reason I also had a bit of anxiety that we would miss our stop in the morning and end up way too far north. Upon reflection this was ridiculous as Ratha our Tour Leader had done this train so many times he would never let that happen.
Overall I think the sleeper trains are actually quite alright and they are an experience that isn’t to be missed if you’re up for a bit of adventure and want to see how the locals do it. The only thing I’d day is that I did enjoy it more than most of the group because of my height (or lack thereof) so maybe if you’re a tall person I’d consider just taking a plane flight.