Early starts are always hard for me, and this morning was no different. Catching the 4am train to Hsipaw meant waking up at 3 so we had plenty of time to gather our things and take a taxi to the train station. Our guesthouse is normally closed this early in the morning but Aung Ko Win requested we wake him up before we left. We presumed it was so we could give our key in and he could check our room, but it was the complete opposite. He simply wanted to wish us well and safe onward travels and hand us over a pre-made breakfast bag for each of us, as the station snack shop wouldn’t be open and he didn’t want us going hungry on what was a 14 hour train ride ahead of us. Again another surprise kind gesture from this amazing guesthouse! We are so sad to leave as it will be hard for any guesthouse to measure up to Yoe Yoe Lay!
For some bizarre reason we allowed half an hour to get to the station. We remembered the main streets were jammed full during the day so it would take us awhile to get there, but didn’t account for the fact it was the middle of the night still and we zoomed all the way down 35th street without another car in sight. There were even dogs lying right in the middle of the road sleeping on the baked tarmac, warm from the sun the day before.
Our taxi driver was kind enough to help us with our bags and take us the the correct platform although its a small station and it was the only train leaving so early in the morning so you can’t miss it. Remember we had booked upper class seats? Well this is what upper class looks like…
Can’t complain since normal class was just wooden benches. Can’t imagine having to sit on a bumpy train for 14 hours on an uncomfortable seat. At least ours kind of reclined and we had plenty of space around us which allowed us to rest our feet on the seats opposite.
Now there was only one real reason we planned Hsipaw into trip and that was because we wanted to cross over the Gokteik Viaduct Bridge in the Shan State. It’s still relatively a non touristy thing to do since not many tourists can put up with the long bumpy rides, and we were one of only a handful of foreigners on our train.
Many people often opt to take the train from Pyin U Lwin cutting the train journey down a bit, but since we don’t have unlimited time we cut this out and hence we got the train straight from Mandalay. Again some people get off at Hsipaw others travel all the way to Lashio, the last stop of the journey.
We had a lot of time to kill until we reached the bridge around 11am! Whilst the first few hours were spent sleeping we did wake up in time to arrive at Pyin U Lwin! Yey! And we had a scheduled half an hour stop at the station.
I’m a little confused as we saw a whole heap of foreigners (well dressed foreigners may I add) hanging around the station. Since they did not board our train I am wondering if there was another train after ours since they all looked too well dressed to be backpackers and I can’t imagine they are the type of travelers that would continue on the remaining 6 hours on the train just to see a bridge. Well we will never know…!
As the train pulled away I wondered how many strays manage to get free rides here? The train had no doors and people were walking on and off the train during the entire stop selling water and snacks. We only had our ticket checked when we boarded the train and we saw plenty of people just hop on as the train pulled away from the station…something I pondered on for awhile since we still had 3 hours until we reached the bridge.
For some reason we were behind schedule so it was hard to predict when we would get the first glimpse of the bridge from afar. We stayed awake for the whole time waiting and waiting. Boredom kicked in after awhile so we wondered around the carriage a bit to stretch our legs…bit tricky when the train was swaying so much! Sitting in my seat I often saw the carriage in front completely disappear from my sight as I looked down the aisle and watched the doors cross over each other…
But soon enough we caught our first glimpse of the bridge in the distance! Luckily we had already pulled out our cameras otherwise we would of missed it!
We were super excited about crossing the bridge and as soon as we pulled away from Gokteik Station everyone on the entire train was hanging out of the windows as we crossed this marvelous bridge! Nerve racking as it was, it was completely worth the long train ride!!