Hanoi city authorities announced their decision to close a number of coffee shops on what is called “Hanoi Train Street” due to increasing concern over the safety of foreign tourists who sit at small, outside coffee stands to watch the trains go by.
Both tourists and coffee shop owners are decrying the city’s decision and have said it will decrease the attractiveness of Hanoi for tourists and will be detrimental to many small businesses that have invested in coffee shops and stores in the area.
According to the city, there are approximately 50 businesses and coffee shops on the 200-meter Hanoi Train Street. The shops and cafes are adjacent to the railroad tracks that run along Dien Bien Phu and Phung Hung streets. This is an area that is considered the heart of the Hanoi’s old quarter district, and is populated with houses that sit only 2 or 3 feet from the railroad tracks, and visitors often sit at tables that are only 1 ~ 2 feet away from moving trains.
The Hanoi Train Street has been popular with both locals and international tourists, who have been coming to the street for years. But in the era of social media, where visitors often take “Selfie” photos, perilously close to trains, there worry about the safety of people has increased.
There haven’t been any tourist deaths along the street, but both government officials and people involved in Hanoi tourism say that it’s only a mater of time.
Nguyen Quoc Ky, CEO of Vietravel, one of Vietnam’s leading tourism experts said that Vietnam’s travel industry would be severely affected if there is an accident on the track involving a foreign tourist.
Nguyen said he understood the sentiments of many of the coffee shop owners along Hanoi Train Street and that the closure of their cafes will hurt them, but Nguyen noted that: "This street is not the only attraction in the city. We cannot allow small gains on this street to negatively impact the travel industry as a whole."
Ha Van Sieu, Deputy Head, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said at a press briefing last week that the Hanoi Train Street is not an official tourist attraction or a part of the administration’s plan for tourism development.
With news of the closure, tourists have been flocking to the street over the last week so that they can take their last photos before the area closes. But the increase in tourists had a negative effect as trains were forced to stop because even though they were traveling at slow speeds, many people were unable to move off of the tracks in time.