Tag Archives: Trains

My First Burmese Train Ride

On the train ride from Pyin U Lwin to Hsipaw, the train passes over what was at one time the second highest rail bridge in the world: the Gokteik Viaduct. Now, that may sound neat, but one must also wonder how safe it could be. Let’s take a look at the train we were on:

This is the train rounding a corner. It’s old. It makes loud noises. The seats are mostly broken. The bushes in many places scrape along the side because they haven’t been trimmed adequately.

This is a typical section of track:

A front view:

And this is the bridge to cross…

Well, apparently the train has never fallen off the bridge. It does go ridiculously slowly, so that may be the reason. The conductor encouraged us to lean right out the door, which was definitely not safe.

Another above-ground rail line, above the jungle canopy, but far below us as we crossed the much higher bridge:

This Burmese Army major didn’t seem to be particularly concerned.

After a successful and interesting crossing, we continued through many more fields like this one before arriving in Hsipaw in the afternoon.

Leaving Pyin U Lwin by Train

Ok, after a LONG pause, I’ve got reliable net access for a while, and in the next weeks a whole bunch of posts with photos from February to present will go up every 2-3 days. Let’s get started back on February 6th.

I woke up in Pyin U Lwin and caught a motorcycle to the train station at 8am. The train arrived late, but not excessively so. While I was waiting, I met two Polish backpackers who were nice to speak with, and I took a few photos around the station:

A display of the typical Myanmar Railways attitude toward time – this photo taken at 0840:

On board, I took a bunch of photos leaning out the windows/doors, and at various stops along the way:

Sunflowers:

We stopped for quite a while right beside this gravel processing facility. The men and women were carrying heavy piles of stones around and dumping them into the sorting machine – the smaller ones would come out one end and the bigger ones on another end, and then they’d be dumped in different piles. Almost all of them did this with no masks to protect their lungs from inhaling the fine dust that filled the air…

This man gave me a broad smile as the train started moving again:

Our Swiss Alps Adventure

While we were in Bern for a day trip, a few of us decided it would be a good idea to stay the night and go to Interlaken the following day rather than return to Geneva. By the end of much discussion, only three of us were really willing to do it, and so Devon, Drew, and myself booked ourselves into a hostel in Bern. It was a decision well-rewarded, as the next day would prove to be my favourite of all my entire trip to Switzerland, and one of the funnest days of travelling I’ve had in all my years of wandering.

The whole group came to the hostel before going back to Geneva and together we had a big, homemade delicious pasta meal with salad and bread, a group effort directed by Devon who is a trained chef. After the meal, everyone but us three boys headed back to Geneva, and we headed to bed.

In the morning us three boys literally sprinted to the train station and climbed on board our train to Interlaken as it was about to pull away.

Once we arrived at the Interlaken Ost train station, we bought another train ticket for a shorter ride to Lauterbrunnen, altitude 800m, then caught a cablecar up the side of the mountain to Grütschalp, where the walking trails begin (the red lines show two train rides and the cablecar, the green line is what we walked).

Completely unprepared and wearing the same clothes as the day before, we set out on a mission to conquer the Swiss Alps.

Devon ponders the grandeur of the Alps and the valley below from the cablecar

The snow-covered trail as we set out on our walk

Across the valley, the postcard-perfect stereotypical image of Switzerland

We stopped at a little town up on the side of the mountain called Mürren, ate our bagged lunch, and talked a lot.

There were some nifty little black birds flying around our sitting area

That’s a LOT of firewood

Swiss patriotism

When we reached the point of our walk at which we had to turn around to make it back to our train on time, we decided we’d stretch our muscles then do some cliff-jumping. There are a series of small cliffs about 3 metres high which form sort of terraces or steps down part of the mountain, and by jumping off each one we found we got to the bottom a lot faster than our climb up the mountain. We captured some of the more glorious leaps on camera:

Devon

Me

Drew

This guy knew how to get down the mountain even faster than us!

Someone lost a shoe on the mountain, but we never found a body so hopefully he/she managed to get home safely.

This is the train for the lazy people who don’t want to walk

We made it back to Bern just in time to jump on the train back to Geneva and off we went. That evening in Geneva our whole group of 12 people had one last communal meal at a nice restaurant and we had speeches and laughter and all that good, sappy stuff. Juan and I enjoyed our supper so much that we took photos of each course. This photo shows the amazing dessert, and my sunburnt face. Yep, it was rather bright in the Alps and we had no sunscreen. The next day the burn was gone though, because of quick aloe vera application thanks to Devon who had some in our Geneva hotel room.

The next morning we headed to the airport for our flight home. Juan and I caught a separate train as we had been waiting for a straggler.

The End.