I love the night train !
I can only speak on the night Train in Thailand as I have not tried the one in Vietnam yet ! But I have been to Thailand twice, taking both 1st and 2nd class on the night train.
The first time I went we were in a big group, so we took the 2nd class bunks. These were not bad ! I think tickets were around 30$ CAD and when you boarded you had 2 benches facing eachother with seat numbers on them. The workers will come and punch a hole in your ticket, making sure you have the correct seat. You are allowed to bring food and drinks on the train (I think… we did), but not alcohol (we snuck it on and took our cans with us when we left). They also sell food like breakfast and drinks on the train, but it is super expensive and to me it was not worth it.
After the train starts moving, workers will come down the train carts and set up the beds for everyone. Your bench seats will be become bunk beds where you have only a curtain separating your bed from the “hallway”. Outside your bunk is where you have spots to put your travel bags. This was not so bad for us because we knew the majority of the people in our cart on the train, so we did not have to worry about waking up to our things being stolen (it’s right outside the curtain though so you COULD hear it if someone were stealing your stuff). The bottom bunk is where it is at because the top bunk is right beside the fan or A/C machine. You only get one blanket so being on the top bunk is a bit freezing.
The bathrooms in the 2nd class are pretty dirty, having only a squatter toilet… which sucks when you are drinking on the train, and then it is also moving, and you’re used to your porcelain throne from back home.
The first class is what I would use again if I went on the night train. I think tickets were around 65$ CAD each and it was 2 people to a “room”. You go on the train and you have 2 choices of bathrooms, which was nice; one was an actual toilet, and the other was a squatter (which is all they had in 2nd class). The rooms were really small but you had an area to put somethings, like your bags, a small sink with a small mirror and then a bench seat that the workers would come and make into bunk beds. I liked this way of traveling more than 2nd class because you had a door that could lock and it made me feel more secure. We also were traveling with another couple and our rooms were right beside each other with a door in the middle that you could lock or open up.
The best part of the night train is getting to watch your journey out your window. It is such a cool way to travel and see tons without wasting too much time. I loved waking up in the morning, opening my window curtain and watching the trees and cities go by.I highly recommend trying it! I am very excited to travel on the Vietnam night train this May.