After talking with one of my friends who traveled around Southeast Asia, Sapa became a must see destination on our honeymoon. Andy and I both loved the idea of doing a home stay since it is important to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while, especially when learning about the cultures of different people.
After doing some research, I thought wow, Sapa is really hard to get to! I actually almost pulled it from our honeymoon itinerary but Andy convinced me that the adventure getting there could be part of the fun.
Booking Our Tickets
Luckily our hotel in Hanoi, the Splendid Star Suite Hotel was amazing and purchased our tickets on our behalf. We did pay a slight premium for our tickets versus online sites, but I wanted to ensure that our tickets were legitimate.
We decided to splurge for a private 2 person VIP berth instead of the standard 4 person berth. We figured that we didn’t really want to stay with strangers and decided it was worth the extra money to have some privacy. Make sure that you book your tickets early as even several weeks out some of the train companies were sold out of the 2 person VIP rooms and we were headed there during Sapa’s low season.
We took the TSC train to Sapa for $95 each person and the Orient Express train back to Hanoi for $98 per person. Even though $386 for round trip transportation for both of us seemed high, when I took into account that it also included 2 nights of accommodations as well, the price seemed more reasonable.
There are also overnight busses that go to Sapa but the safety record is somewhat questionable. We were happy to spend the extra money for peace of mind. I should also point out that the night train actually drops you off in Lao Cai, and from there you will need to get additional transportation to Sapa.
The Night Train
We arrived to our train early to ensure that there were no issues. The last thing that we wanted was to have an issue with our tickets and have the train roll away before they could get resolved.
It was easy to find our train car and sleeper car location. Our room was correctly set up as a 2 person VIP berth. The room was everything that we needed, a bed, pillow and blanket. The TSC train doubled up the mattresses from the 2 unused beds to give us an extra comfortable mattress.
There was a bathroom on each train car with a western toilet. It was relatively clean and served the function that it had.
Since we booked through the hotel, our tickets were perceived as more VIP and we were given snacks and drinks for our ride. Strangely the drinks included a warm can of coke and a warm can of beer. I’m still perplexed why the beer would be given out warm.
Sleeping on the Night Train
This was Andy’s first overnight train and he was really excited about it. I had previously taken night trains in Europe and was prepared for a poor night of sleep.
Ironically, Andy had the best night of sleep during our 3 week honeymoon when he was on the train. I’m not sure if it was the rocking motion of the train, the fact that he had his own bed or something else, but I find it fascinating since he is normally a very poor sleeper.
Our room locked from the inside which made us feel secure. Unfortunately when we were coming back to Hanoi, the conductor unlocked our door, slid it opened and yelled for us to get up. I almost had a heart attack as I was jarred awake. Andy had no clue I was in such a deep sleep and had heard the conductor waking people up as he made his way down the hall.
Expect that you’re going to arrive late when you take the train. On both of our routes we arrived an hour later than scheduled.
It’s a great way to get to Sapa which is difficult to get to, especially since your travel time is the time that you would normally be sleeping anyway. While it’s a little expensive, there aren’t many options to get you up to Sapa and a trip there is worth the journey.