I am traveling with a family of total three people in December, so it's winter season now. I booked a private cabin which is perfect, so the extra bed I could use it for our 2 big luggage, hand carry and some seating space. The cabin is small please note, about 1.6m x 2m. For convenience, please pre-pack your necessities like toothbrush, phone charger, warm clothing in your hand carry instead of searching through different luggages in the tiny space.
I took the night train from Hanoi to Sapa using Oriental Impress, and night train from Sapa to Hanoi using ET Pumpkin. So I am able to make a comparison between the 2 cabins. Between the two, I must say Oriental is superior.
Both have double decker beds, which will get your kid super excited. Both are fairly similar in aesthetic, but the devil is in the details.
Oriental provides a pot of hot water (Pumpkin doesn't), plus coffee sachets which will allow you to have a hot drink to keep your body warm. When temperature is 14C, this is much appreciated!
The electricity point (for charging our phones of course) is also strategically located above the beds (Pumpkin only has at the center of cabin).
Oriental's air-con vent can be individually adjusted, so you can turn on or off (Pumpkin is fixed).
Oriental cabin is clean, whereas I noticed some stains on bedsheet and blanket in Pumpkin.
Oriental toilet bowl and washing basin is together inside the toilet, whereas Pumpkin is separated (ie. you can wash your hands only if someone else is not using the other cubicle).
Contrary to what some reviewers said, all the beds are allocated, so there's no need for a mad rush. Please collect the tickets 1 hour before at the meeting point at the train station (see photo) with your passport.
When you arrive Sapa at around 6am, there are many touts asking you for a taxi ride to hotel. I paid 200VND for 3 persons for a minivan shared with others. Travel to hotel in Sapa is 1 hour.
Go ahead and book Oriental. When your kid can tell you Oriental is superior, you can't go much wrong!