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  • Day165

    Day 164: Train to Tsipaw

    November 27, 2016 in Myanmar ⋅ 🌧 15 °C

    Alarm at 3:15am, packed and downstairs by 3:30am. Although our hotel has a "24-hour reception", the guy behind the desk was fast asleep, and another by the door was fast asleep as well. After a few polite coughs failed, I eventually shook the guy awake and he checked us out of the hotel, giving us our packed breakfast in the process. When we asked about our taxi to the station, he said "oh yeah" and went and woke up the other guy! Poor guy had slept on a wooden hotel bench overnight for 6000 kyat (about $6 AUD).

    Made it to the station around 3:50 and bought our tickets to Tsipaw, which were 4000 kyat each - as usual the taxi to the station costs less than the train/bus itself. Train was pretty old, probably 1960s vintage from China, though at least it was moderately spacious and with padded seats. We could've opted for the economy class ticket which was a wooden seat! No thanks.

    Just after 4am the horn blared and we rumbled slowly out of the station. Nothing to see as it was still pre-dawn, and Mandalay is just as dark as the rest of the country with poor power infrastructure. So I spent the first few hours dozing until about 6:30 when it got light enough to see out.

    The train was very slow and bumpy - most of the rails were laid by the British during their occupation between the 1860s and 1950s, and it felt like they hadn't been much upgraded since. Nice countryside to look at, rolling hills and lots of agriculture. Still no large settlements though.

    I spent most of the time reading War & Peace - now that I've got my phone back I can finally try and finish it before we reach Australia! Stopped at a random town for lunch where a whole bunch of vendors got on the train. We both had stir-fried noodles from a lady selling from a tray on her head! Plus a few pre-packaged biscuits and stuff.

    The train rumbled on, and early afternoon we reached Goktiek Viaduct - a huge viaduct built by the British over a deep valley. All iron construction, it's several hundred metres long and probably 50 metres high. Very impressive! The train also has to descend down to it via several slow switchbacks, so you get a great view of it from both sides of the train before finally going over it.

    That was probably the highlight until 3pm when we arrived in Tsipaw. 11 hours is a bloody long time on a train, let me tell you! Tsipaw is a pretty small tourist town with lots of trekking options, so most people hopped off here. We were planning on walking to the hotel before someone with a guesthouse sign said to hop into their truck, as they were from the sister hotel with the same owner and would drop us off for free.

    Good as their word, we arrived at our hotel 5 minutes later! It's brand new and we'd taken a risk by booking as there weren't any reviews, but it was quite nice and the staff were very friendly. Sorted out bus tickets for our onward journey the next day (we'd always planned on going all the way to Lashio, our ultimate destination, but the train is slow and often runs late, dumping you in a strange non-tourist city at 10pm), in which the owner Mr Shin and his son were a very big help.

    Shandos wasn't feeling very good, as she'd eaten a large amount of fish crackers on the train which didn't seem to have agreed with her stomach, so I went out on my own for dinner - first time in quite a while! Went to a nearby Chinese place which was adequate for my needs.

    Back to the hotel for another early night and early start - the bus to Lashio is leaving "about 7 or 7:30" according to the owners! Wish us luck.
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