A night on board the Victoria Express Train between Hanoi and Lao Cai / Sapa
There’s something to be said about train travel. The clackety clack of the rails, the gentle swaying of the carriages, the scenery that whizzes by like the greatest television program on earth…
Fueled by dreams of iconic train rides like the Orient Express or the Trans-Siberian, we’ve decided to take the Victoria Express Train to the roof of Indochina, high in the hills of northern Vietnam. The notion of crisp white sheets and all-wood cabins evoke reveries of yesteryear’s Indochina, the romance of traveling low and slow simply irresistible.
After a few days of taking in the sights of Hanoi, we make our way to the Victoria meeting place, directly across from the Hanoi Railway Station, brightly lit in red on this cool December evening.
There’s Victoria staff waiting curbside to tag our bags, and we’re whisked up to the Victoria Lounge, a calming space filled with plush sofas and fast WiFi overlooking the railway station. There are already a few families there, a United Nations of travelers, children giddy about the upcoming journey.
We relax over a cup of hot tea and order a Gin Fizz to properly celebrate the beginning of our adventure to Sapa. Cold weather has set in early this year, and we’ve brought coats and sweaters against the winter chill. It’ll be strange to feel cold again here in tropical Vietnam, after the baking heat of Saigon and the sunny breezes of the coast.
Soon, the attendants come to inform us that the train is ready and they ferry us across the street and onto the Victoria Express Train.
We’re in a two-bed Deluxe Cabin, and our luggage has already been thoughtfully slipped under our beds.
Waiting on our pillow is an amenity kit with a bottle of water, a face towel, earplugs and toiletries.
An attendant briefs us on the layout of the train and services, including pre-ordering our breakfast, and taking snack and beverage orders from the menu. We have a quick wander around the train and spot the familiar, comforting Victoria touches throughout.
We exchange our shoes for comfy slippers and a plush Victoria robe. The Wifi is fast, and we do some last-minute planning for Sapa and send off a few emails…
Soon enough, the lights of Hanoi begin to fade into the darkness and the swaying of the train lulls us into a deep sleep… Morning comes too quickly, and we rise to a breakfast of a warm croissant and a welcome cup of Vietnamese coffee just before arriving at the modern Lao Cai train station.
We wipe away the last vestiges of sleep with a lemongrass-scented towel. It feels good to be fully rested to make the most out of our time in this beautiful region.
There are a few excursion options from Lao Cai, including visiting colorful mountainside markets, but we’ve decided to head straight to Sapa.
We’ve booked the Victoria shuttle for the 38km transfer to Sapa and the transition is seamless. Attendants help with our luggage from the train to the station where the Victoria driver is standing at the ready.
Lao Cai is directly on the border with China and is known for being a market town where traders cross back and forth. A short ride and we’ve begun our descent into the mountains.
Sapa is known for being magically misty, as cool air settles into the valleys in the evenings. Our one-hour drive up the mountain offers tantalizing glimpses of terraced rice fields and thick groves of bamboo.
Soon enough, we pull up to Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa perched high above Sapa with gorgeous views of the mountain ranges and the charming town below. We already know that it’s going to be a wonderful holiday…
The Victoria Express Train provides stylish transport exclusively for Victoria guests between Hanoi and Lao Cai, the gateway to Sapa. The train departs six times a week for the 8.5 hour trip and accommodates up to 52 passengers in two luxurious sleeping carriages.
Each sleeping carriage has 6 superior cabins (4 berths) and 1 deluxe cabin (2 berths). All are climate-controlled (air-conditioning and heating), wood paneled, with individual reading lights, baggage storage, complimentary WiFi and oversized windows.
For those wishing to travel by road, Victoria also operates a premium coach service between Hanoi – Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa. Email [email protected] for more information.