One Sketchy Train Ride to Pyin Oo Lwin
It was time to leave Hsipaw and head onto our next destination even though I had no idea what that might be... I heard about taking a really pretty train ride and what better way to get to get out of a local bus ride, right?!
Mr. Charles Hotel found out the train was "on time" so Martin and I grabbed our backpacks and took off for the train station. We arrived 10 minutes later and luckily found ourselves in the right place at the right time. We got our tickets second out of the hundred people there. We moved back outside and waited for the arrival of the infamous train that only shows up half the time. The stray dogs were hovering waiting for Martin to continuously throw food in my direction, egging them on to harass me.
When we first got on the train my chair didn't recline and Martin laughed at me. About a minute later we were informed we were in the wrong coach and when we moved to our correct seats his seat was broken, now that is instant karma for you.
The train was an experience, a very loud, long and nail biting experience. The train wobbled back and forth as the speed increased causing bags to fall on people's heads. You could only hear the person next to you when the train was moving and a lot of time you had to raise your voice to for them to be able to hear you. The bathroom was in the corner and you could see the ground pass by when you looked down the toilet hole. It was breezy to say the least.
We watched the landscape change from villages to rice fields to vast mountains to crop plantations for over eight and a half hours. We made a few stops along the way and not all voluntarily. So plan accordingly to not plan to be anywhere on time.
We derailed only once causing a twenty minute delay, right before we approached the tallest train bridge in all of Southeast Asia. It was a massive canyon surrounded by huge limestone mountains filled with trees and a big river running down the middle of the valley. This was the best part of the train ride to Pyin Oo Lwin to which we arrived at about an hour after. I said my goodbyes to Martin suddenly deciding the stay in this small town and went on my merry solo way.
Pyin Oo Lwin is a smaller village town between Hsipaw and Mandalay. Tuk tuks fly by piled high with people and cargo, as people pave the street with their bare hands. Don't be surprised when numerous locals approach you to ask for a picture. In Pyin Oo Lwin, I felt like a celebrity, paparazzi everywhere!
I definitely recommend taking the train if you have countless hours to kill, the ticket is less than $3 for first class, and trust me on this one, it's worth the extra buck. You can also arrive in about three hours via taxi which should only cost you $12-15 or so. You can also take the taxi straight to Mandalay for $20. You only need to spend one night in Pyin Oo Lwin. It is a small town and good to explore for a day, but there isn't much to do after visiting the waterfalls and botanical gardens.
Things to do in Pyin Oo Lwin:
- Drive to the waterfalls via motorbike & watch the locals enjoy their day off - Try to avoid the bathroom at this place. They charge you and its honestly a square of concrete you pee on under your feet.
- Go to the botanical gardens - A massive plot of land with orchards, bamboo forests, orchids and a lake, climb up to the top of the clock tower!
- Grab a good cup of coffee - They are known for their coffee plantations in Pyin Oo Lwin
Places to eat:
- At the Botanical Gardens they are little pop up noodle and salad stands - Highly recommend the ginger salad, tea leaf salad & shan noodles! Only about $1.50 for a meal.
- Coffee spot on the left right before you hit the Orchid Hotel - Delicious espresso and western deserts.
- Orchid Hotel - We ate breakfast and dinner here.. typical Burmese menu!
Where to stay:
- The Orchid Hotel - Super cheap and beautiful accomodations. A dutch man I met outside the train station called before and reserved us 3 beds in the dorm room, but when we showed up they were full so they upgraded us to a free two bedroom suite for only $3 a night for each of us! The beds in the dorm run from $3-$5 depending on availability.