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Hanoi’s famous railway attraction should remain, but with added safety measures: opinions

Friday, October 11, 2019, 16:36 GMT+7
Hanoi’s famous railway attraction should remain, but with added safety measures: opinions
Visitors have drinks at cafés next to the railway track in Hanoi before the area was blocked in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH. / Tuoi Tre

A number of foreigners who live in Vietnam or have visited the country shared their opinions with Tuoi Tre News about the the recent shutdown of a tourist attraction along a railroad which runs through Hanoi’s urban districts.

The comments were submitted on Thursday following news that access to the railroad tracks snaking through several crowded neighborhoods across four districts, including Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, Dong Da, and Hai Ba Trung, has been blocked to prevent tourists from entering the area.

The area has earned a reputation as a famous destination for tourists hoping to snap a photo of the narrow railway lined with houses and cafés.

The coffee shops butting against the tracks offered visitors the unique experience of sipping a cup of coffee while staying alert to incoming trains.

However, the municipal administration is now combating the public and traffic safety risks posed by these coffee shops by cordoning off the area to visitors, particularly in the wake of instances such as the emergency stop a train was forced to make last week as it waited for tourists to clear the tracks.

All entrances to the famous railway cafes area in Hanoi were blocked on October 10, 2019 in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH/ Tuoi Tre

All entrances to the famous railway cafés area in Hanoi were blocked on October 10, 2019 in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH. / Tuoi Tre

Unique and different

I was very disappointed to learn that the railway cafés will be closing. I was happy to be able to visit the area during my 3-week visit to Hanoi in March of this year. I was there every day and I loved it. It’s so unique and different with nice, friendly people everywhere.

The café owners and staff were very conscious of health and safety by giving plenty of warnings before the train arrived and clearing the tracks quickly and efficiently. They also did a great job of ensuring everyone stood back. It's so sad to see that these café owners and workers will lose their unique businesses, livelihoods, and jobs!

When I was there I didn't see any dangerous behavior. Of course, whilst there were no trains, people were making the most of the unique photo opportunities. I think perhaps installing an alarm system so everyone knows to move off the tracks would be a solution.

Nicola Kathleen King from the UK

Visitors have drinks at cafés next to the railway track in Hanoi before the area was blocked in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH/ Tuoi Tre

Visitors have drinks at cafés next to the railway track in Hanoi before the area was blocked in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH. / Tuoi Tre

Management, not banning

I have seen news about the railway cafés in my news feed. The area is somewhere I take or give directions for tourists. They all love the experience. It is a very exciting and dynamic part of Hanoi. I have Vietnamese friends that run family homestay services very close by. I think with proper management, it can be a great tourist attraction still, and I feel for all the families that make an investment [in that area].

Closing the area is sad and a lost opportunity, but I understand the authorities have to ensure safety. It looked like common sense to me but there's always someone who is stupid whose actions bugger it up for everyone. It had to come to this point unfortunately sooner or later, but as I said management not banning. Solutions could be some lines on the ground to stay behind when a train is coming; a speaker system to announce trains are coming, clear all the track areas, anyone who doesn't comply will receive an immediate fine of at least one million dong; and signs to inform all of the obligations if visitors choose to enter.

Bruce Alexander Noble from Australia

People visit the famous railway track in Hanoi before the area was blocked in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH/ Tuoi Tre

People visit the famous railway track in Hanoi before the area was blocked in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH. / Tuoi Tre

Safety is important

I haven’t been back to the area for coffee since it goes touristy, but I still drive by sometimes. I do feel bad for the businesses there, but I think tourists were being reckless and someone was going to get hurt. It was getting so popular and there were always so many people there, so it was just a matter of time until it got too dangerous. It’s such a small space and there were just so many tourists being reckless and taking photos on the tracks, waiting until the very last second to move out of the way.

I’m happy that the government was proactive. It’s a good thing that they are blocking the area off. That said, it’s such a cool spot so it is a shame to completely shut it down. I think perhaps they could have just stopped people from visiting only during the hours when the train came through.

Safety is important and there were no rules or safe guards at all. In my opinion, another solution could have been to station police and staff during the train times to clear people from the tracks. I think it could still be a fun experience even if the café owners or police clear the way well before the train comes.

Kelsey Madison from the U.S.

People visit the famous railway track in Hanoi before the area was blocked in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH/ Tuoi Tre

People visit the famous railway track in Hanoi before the area was blocked in an attempt of local authorities to ensure public and traffic safety. Photo: Q.TH. / Tuoi Tre

Make sure people are aware of things

I have lived in Vietnam for ten years and have only been to the railway cafés twice, while visiting Hanoi on vacation.

I first discovered the area by accident last year while taking a xe om (motorbike taxi) to my hotel, and I asked the driver to stop on the tracks. My first impression was that it was a chill place to hang out with friends in the evening, for both locals and foreigners. I was surprised to find out that there is actually a train that goes by. In America, and most other countries, you can't really get that experience. I came back about a month ago and stopped by in the evening to see it again.

I'm not sure about the details but I hope there's a way that the local cafés can remain open. From what I know, there haven't been any serious accidents and I don't think it's that dangerous. In my opinion, they should keep the cafés and bars along the tracks open, but make sure people are aware of things like what time the train comes. They should also add warning signs and a few public servants to ensure everyone's safety.

If it closes down and tourists or local people aren't allowed to come, the shops there will lose business and we will all lose a very unique attraction.

Jacob Barnes from the U.S.

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Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

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