February 29, 2016
Pyin Oo Lwin: Train Ride over the Gokteik Viaduct
The breakfast buffets are over. For the rest of the trip, when breakfast is provided, it will be served at the table. At the Royal Flower, they served fried eggs, sweet toast, butter, jam, bananas, melon, and the best coffee of the trip, grown nearby.
Today we took a train trip further into the mountains, culminating with a crossing of the Gokteik Viaduct. After breakfast, a taxi was waiting to take us to the train station, about a mile away, at no charge. At the station I showed our passports to the ticket agent, and we quickly received tickets as far as Nawnpeng Station, the first station past the viaduct, for 1,600 kyats ($1.30) each. What a deal.
The train left at 8:37, only 15 minutes behind schedule. It was a rough ride. The train is standard width, but the tracks are narrow gauge, causing the train cars to sway wildly, even though the train never travels very fast. Our seats were in the "upper class" carriages, but that's relative. The train has seen better days.
"Upper class" seating on Myanmar Railways
Along the tracks
The ride through the countryside was interesting as we watched people farming and going about their daily lives, but the highlight of the journey was the Gokteik Viaduct, a steel bridge spanning a 990-foot-deep river gorge. The bridge was completed in 1903 by an America company when Burma was a British colony. The bridge too has seen better days. The train crosses it at less than walking speed, in order to cause less stress to the aging structure.
Posing at the precipice
Crossing the Gokteik Viaduct
The train continued on after crossing the viaduct, but we did not. We got off at Nawnpeng Station at 12:25. There's no public transportation from Nawnpeng to Pyin Oo Lwin unless you wait for the return train, and a one-way trip on the slow train was enough. So Tom and I hopped on a motorcycle taxi for a ride to the main road, where we hoped to flag down a taxi back to our hotel. First we both loaded onto one motorcycle, but we traveled only about 100 feet before the driver realized his tire was low, so he stopped the bike and ran back down the road and sent up two other bikes. I got on a scooter with a lady, and Tom got on a motorcycle with a young teenage boy!
Tom looking confident on a motorcycle taxi
When we got to the main road, we met up with the two Brits we'd talked to yesterday and a young Italian guy, all of whom had also been on the train and wanted to return to Pyin Oo Lwin. The five of us, along with a local woman and her two young daughters, ended up riding back to town in a “shared taxi” (the back of a truck). The train ride took four hours, but the return trip by road took only two, even though there's no bridge for motor vehicles, and so we had to go way down into the gorge and climb back out again. We arrived back at the Royal Flower around 3:00 p.m.
Tonight we had an early dinner at Diamond Cafe & Restaurant, where we had chicken with black pepper sauce and chicken with four vegetables. My plate came with a very fancy cucumber garnish shaped like a couple of birds. The food wasn't quite as good as last night, but the restaurant was much cleaner.
After dinner, we walked around for a while shopping for snacks before returning to the hotel and enjoying cocktails on the rooftop terrace, while listening to the sounds of Myanmar. There is always music and singing coming from somewhere in this country. One night we walked by a beer station with “Myanmar Idol” playing on TV. I bet it was good.
Sign our guestbook