A train ride through the Gokteik viaduct in Myanmar
We knew that we could go from Mandalay to Hsipaw by train but because it is a 12-hour journey, we opted to take a local bus from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin, which is only a 1.5 hour trip, and then carry on to Hsipaw by train. We arrived in the late afternoon and spent the night there. Pyin Oo Lwin is a very charming city with several colonial style houses. The next day, we bought our train tickets at the train station: 2,750 ($3) for an upper class seat and 1,200 ($1.50) for an ordinary seat. As the prices are so cheap, we didn’t hesitate to buy upper class seats because they are more comfortable compared to the wooden seats in the lower-class.
As we slowly left the train station, children from each side of the train tracks waved at us and shouted “Mingalarbar!”, the Burmese greeting, which makes the journey so much more thrilling!
The train ride itself is about seven hours and takes you through beautiful, picturesque landscapes as you gain altitude. The windows are open so be careful not to put your head or hand outside, but enjoy the cool breeze while keeping an eye out for rogue branches and vegetation as you pass by! The journey was a great opportunity to observe local life. Vendors selling all sorts of snacks and food items would walk up and down the aisles, most balancing their goods on their heads, keeping excellent balance despite the bumpy ride. We we also able to admire the local life outside the train: farmers in their fields, animals wandering around and children playing outside their houses, etc.
We stopped a few times on the way, giving us the time to wander around outside of the train for about 4-5 minutes and stretch our legs. This journey is the ideal way to interact with locals who will very often be very pleased to talk to you, even if they don’t speak English. We had a nice conversation with a monk traveling to Kyauk Me (one stop before Hsipaw).
Last but not least, the Gotheik Viaduct, which is the highest bridge in the country to this day. It is 102 meters high above a canyon and spans 37 meters. A very impressive and breathtaking moment!
After this adventure, let a new one begin in Hsipaw!