Vu Thi Khoa washes her dishes in a plastic basin outside her home using water from a makeshift hosepipe. As she carefully scrubs away the dirt she issues a frank and stern warning.
"Keep your ears and eyes open and pay attention to the light and train horn signals," she says, "to avoid being hit by trains."
Khoa has lived less than a yard away from the railway line for 27 years, so she knows how to stay safe, and to keep others out of trouble, too — she’s raised her children and grandchildren there.
She’s used to the noise, used to the dirt and used to the risks, just like all the people who live their lives on the train line in Hanoi.
Several stretches of the North-South railway line passing through Ha Noi have become points of attraction for foreign tourists because of the houses people occupy just a few steps away from the tracks.
Dating back to 1881, the 1,730km North-South railway line passes through 21 provinces and cities across Vietnam. When Hanoi Station opened in 1902, the train lines that entered it were built in barren areas. But as the city grew and became more populated, houses were constructed closer and closer to the tracks.
It is estimated there are hundreds of households living this way in the city’s inner districts, including Ba Dinh, Hoan Kiem and Dong Da.
Most of the residents used to be railway workers. Some moved to the capital city from other provinces to find jobs.
"Living here is not nearly as good as other places," says Nguyen Thi Dau, who has been living near the railway line for 33 years. "But we’ve been living here so long we’ve all got used to it."
Open up Dau’s front door and there’s a small kitchen, bare walls, a room and an electric fan, constantly pointing in the direction of her husband, who lies on the bed.
He suffered a stroke seven years ago and has rarely moved since.
"The noise used to keep us awake, and we used to freak out when trains passed by because they shook our house. But then we all got used to it," Dau adds. "Life is tough here but we accepted it."
Using a method like Khoa’s, Dao Van Chinh scrubs away dirt from his clothes as he sits leaning over a plastic basin where he washes his garments.
They may come out of the water clean this time, but it won’t be long before they need a new rinse.