scroll down for everything you need to know about taking the Goteik viaduct train
click here to start reading from the beginning – Myanmar 1: Yangon
John and I couldn’t wait to leave Hsipaw, this town really didn’t treat us well. We were super excited to tick one more thing off of our bucket list today: taking the train over the Goteik viaduct Bridge towards Mandalay. Why is a bridge so exciting? It is the 2nd highest train bridge in the world and offers a spectacular view. So, at half past 8 we left our hotel to arrive at the train station in time to get our tickets. The day before we found out that it was only possible to buy a ticket only at the day of departure. Thank god we got there super early, it turned out that all tickets were written by hand and it took forever to purchase one. Only minutes after getting our tickets the train arrived and we took our seats in first class. Super fancy, I know. Well, not really. The only difference between first and second class was that there were actually some sort of cushioned seats instead of wooden benches. No aircon. Even the doors didn’t close, allowing everyone to just jump out whenever they wanted to.
Shortly after we left, we realised what we had gotten ourselves into: the train was shaking from the left to the right and going up and down. It was even bumpier than the last ride we had in the minivan from Inle Lake to Hsipaw. I am not sure what I had expected from a 2 Euro train ride. After a few minutes my backpack, as well as others flew down from the storage area right onto the head of two Chinese ladies. I felt so incredibly sorry but they were surprisingly alright and just started laughing. I guess they must have had a concussion from the 20 kilo backpack.
Even though there were only supposed to be a few stops on the way, we stopped in every little village. Sometimes for only a few seconds, sometimes for up to 30 minutes. Vendors selling food and drinks while jumping on and off the train providing us with all necessary snacks.
It took us a few hours to get to the bridge but it was totally worth it. Not only was it freaking scary to drive over the wooden bridge with this super old and shaky train but the view was truly amazing. Even getting hit by a branch through the open window leaving a little cut right between my eyebrows was forgotten. It finally felt like we were on the right track again. A few hours later that would of course change again…
As soon as we got off the train I realised that my wallet was missing. Luckily only 20 Euros of cash and one credit card was inside (I always travel with 2 cards). Alright, so we walked about two kilometers to our hotel, me grumpy as ever, only to realise that John had booked a room for the night before. So, we got another room in that super shabby hotel and paid for the night we hadn’t even slept there. Thankfully the owner offered us bicycles for free that we gladly accepted. It was already dark outside but we decided to cycle around the city for a bit anyway after a whole day of sitting.
It turned out that Pyin Oo Lwin was actually a quite lively and nice city. A lot of people were still outside, drinking beer and having a good time. We stopped at a small Indian restaurant where we enjoyed an amazing dinner before going to bed.
The next morning we took the bikes again and explored the city some more. We even decided to stay for another night instead of already heading towards Mandalay. We stopped at some lakes, parks, super cute cafes and at a roller skating place that made us feel as if we had travelled straight back to the 80s. We had a super fun day and even got a free dinner in an Indian restaurant. A random dude paid for all our food and drinks. We have no idea what he was doing for work but he was driving a brand new Range Rover and wearing super fancy clothes. Quite a unique view in this Country for sure.
After that awesome day in Pyin Oo Lwin and a quick gym session the next morning we took a shared taxi to Mandalay. Who would have thought that this one hour ride could turn out to be our worst in Myanmar so far? When the taxi arrived at our hotel only one other person was sitting in the car. An overweight man chewing betel nut. I squeezed in next to him to take the middle seat, I mean I was by far the smallest one of us. Unfortunately he didn’t want to sit next to me and John and I had to swap seats. A super small Burmese girl was sitting on the front seat. Don’t ask me about the logic behind this. I was just super happy not to sit next to the overweight man that was constantly spitting into a plastic bottle and making weird noises. The streets were again even worse than we thought and we stopped several times without reason where the taxi driver left us in the boiling hot car at an outside temperature of 32 degrees (yes, of course no aircon). We eventually made it to Mandalay late in the afternoon. This time we even had the hotel booked for the right night and it turned out to be super clean and have a comfortable bed.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TAKING THE TRAIN TO GOTEIK VIADUCT
The train that goes over this famous bridge is running daily between Mandalay and Lashio. You can find out about the departure times at the local train tation. The train leaves Mandalay as well as Lashio super early in the morning.
Get first class tickets to make sure you have an alright seat. You stop several times where you have enough time to purchase lunch. Vendors are also selling drinks and snacks throughout the whole train ride.
Sit on the lefthand side coming from Mandalay or on the right coming from Lashio to have the perfect view onto the bending train when crossing the bridge.
If you are coming from Lashio, you can get off in Pyin Oo Lwin and take a shared taxi to Mandalay to save time. There are plenty of drivers waiting right at the Station.
IMPORTANT: Be at the Station in time to purchase your ticket. It usually takes a while because all tickets are written by hand. You Need your passport when buying your Train ticket.