In the name of curiosity, and budget, me and my sister decided to take the sleepers Livitrans train, from Hanoi to the Hue, central Vietnam. It is 6-7 hours riding!! The Domestic flight was quite expensive, sleepers train sounds good, we can sleep along the way to Hue. Was it a good choice? Of course yes, with capital Y.E.S!!
There are plenty of trains from Hanoi to some cities in the central of VN. After some research, I decided to use Livitrans train. This first class train looked interesting, a wooden compartment with 4 bed inside, looked convenient. We have no sleeper train in Indo, I never ever use it, so….. don’t blame me for my curiosity! The bad news about the train was….. they have no official on line ticket booking! Yes, it is the same with Indo! And…., reservation is highly recommended, I’d better say it’s a must!!
There are some web site selling the ticket, but they all agents, and we were jaded by information about fake-cheat-website tour agents in Hanoi! So, buy it on the spot was the only option! (i wish i knew this train website earlier!!) At the end, I was end up buying it in Handspan tour. The price was 43 USD per pax, and Handspan put another 10% for service. The other option was, taking a regular sleepers train, simple compartment, with 6 bed inside! It was good option, though. We can buy the whole six bed, so we can have the whole compartment for us. But….. it was sold out! So, we took the 4 bed Livitrans, leave at 3 pm. Actually, I wanted the train that leaves at 7pm, as written on the net, but… it was un available. The only ticket we got was leaving at 3pm!! So… we will have really limited time to sightseeing in Hanoi!
On the departure day, we arrived at the train station at 2 pm, we have to be at the station 30 minutes before departed. The train station was……chaos! What I expected? It was more or less the same situation with train station in Surabaya! The waiting room is an old French style room, beautiful…. There are 2 big glass paneled door, one was blocked, one was locked and guarded. I could easily see the railway through that door. But, we got a problem….. there were no English notification, no one seems to speak English, nor willing to help, and…… I saw no other tourist! *sniff sniff… i smell some trouble was comming!* My grumpy aunt was really nervous, I couldn’t deny it, it was effected on me a bit. I was wandering around that big station, trying to talk to anyone, and it was useless! Well, not really useless actually….. I gather some information (using both body language and my wishful thinking) that the train will arrive at 3pm! And we have to wait!!
Finally, a couple of tourist came. I did exchange some information, and compared our tickets. They seemed using the exact same train with me, but they will stop at Danang, while I will stop at Hue. But… this tourist couple was asked to go somewhere outside the train station!! 15 minutes later, this tourist couple back to the room, and told me about another Livitrans entrance, outside of the train station. My brain was stuck, meanwhile, the Vietnamese passengers started to gather on front of the guarded door. I was about to sure that I can access the Livitrans train from that waiting room….. But, after another group of tourist came to the room, and running away after a few minutes inside, I decided to run out, finding that other entrance!!
The Livitrans entrance was right in the right side of the train station, actually it is a hotel named Manggo hotel. They had a glass door, with big Livitrans logo on its door. A girl greeted me. I was a half running, and it wasn’t easy, as our luggage was quite large (Hello!! That’s belongs to my aunt and uncle! Mine was just a back pack!) I yelled (OK, swearing….. in english) to that girl, as I showed her my ticket!! I felt deeply disappointed by the service! Because of their lack of information, we were about to missed our train!!!!!!
Anyway….. after I seated nicely inside the compartment, waiting the train to move, my brain started to work again….. Actually I could access the train from the door on the waiting room. I have my ticket on my hand, so I didn’t need to take it on the Livitrans’ entrance…..If I weren’t that nervous, I could use my brain better, I didn’t need to run out with our large luggage to the Livitrans entrance…… And I didn’t need to yell at that girl….. I feel sorry about her.
The Livitrans actually are carriages, not a train at all! The trains belong to the government, and so with most of the carriages. There are some companies who have tourist carriage to attached to the regular train, such as Livitrans, Victoria, or Vansipan.
Beside the chaos opening, Livitrans was great. It looks exactly like the pictures in the net. Clean wooden air-cond compartment. The train provided each of us a bottle of water, a cup of tea, a cup of instant noodle. They have hot water dispenser in every carriage, quite convenient! But…. no food!! I guess they sell it on the way. We were prepared ourselves with bread we bought in Hanoi. My grumpy aunt told me that the upper bunk wasn’t comfortable, shaky and scary, she have tried it in Germany. And she couldn’t sleep at all!! I pretended to not listening to her! I have told her before we departed to VN, I wanted to try it, and she didn’t say a word! So why the hell she said it, when we already inside the carriage?? Our next problem was…. Will the livitrans crew told us when we arrived at Hue?? I’m afraid not! So, I made sure what time will we arrived at Hue, and managed to completely awake and ready at least 1 hour before it.
Anyway….. we managed to got off the train at Hue save and sound, no chaos no hassle….. Thanks God!