Greetings from Mandalay!
Well it’s been a great three days since I last posted and as you can imagine a lot has happened since then. I’m in Myanmar now for starters. And I have to say I love it so far. I’ve found the people warm and friendly and apart from the accommodation everything is cheap.
So I woke at stupid o’clock on the seventeenth to get to the airport for my flight from Bangkok to Mandalay. This was the old airport i remember from my first trips to Thailand. Air Asia fly from there. The flight was fine but I must admit to being quite nervous on the back of the recent Air Asia crash. Flying over Myanmar it looked dry and rocky.
Customs was no fuss and soon I was changing money and in a taxi with three Swiss girls I had met on the flight. I was happily surprised to find it quite cool here as we sped along the highway. At Mandalay I was dropped at the Silver Star Hotel where the lonely planet said share taxis for Pyin Oo Lwin left from -my final destination of the day. Well, they were thankfully accurate th7s time and I was soon on my way. I worried beforehand that connections wouldn’t meet up but it was quicker and smoother than I could have expected.
Straight to my guest house’s doorstep as well! The Royal Flower Guesthouse and it proved so nice I didn’t expect it with very very friendly and helpful staff, spacious rooms and awesomely hot shower. Not bad for a place I chose online simply because it was the cheapest place in town I could find!
It was cold in Pyin Oo Lwin I had to sleep in my trousers! I was not expecting it to be quite so cold I must admit. Still, it’s a really nice town up in the hills.
The main reason I came to Pyin Oo Lwin was to take a train over the Gokteik Viaduct, built in 1901 and at the time the second highest rail bridge in the world and still the longest and tallest in Myanmar. It stands at 318 feet and the journey is certainly one of the most. .. Interesting I’ve ever taken.
I was greeted in Pyin Oo Lwin by the news that this train had had two accidents in the last week. One accident had a carriage uncoupling in the station and the carriage actually toppling over so I was a bit wary but still this is why I came to this part of the country. The train was waiting at the station when I arrived and I took upper class at a buck sixty with comfortable seats. That did stay upright. Still they had clean covers.
The teain is old. That’s the long and short of it. In standard class the floor boards were fading away. Wooden seats. Then it took an hour and a half to leave. The couplings were again the problem – I was told they were reinforced with fencing wire!
We left and the train was really out of this world. I tell ya I have never been on a bumpier train in all my life. It bounced and rocked like crazy! Thankfully I had a soft seat.
It was a few hours until we hit the bridge. It was pretty amazing – and I didn’t feel that scared. I hate heights but it was ok. Didn’t creak that much either. The station Niaopeng was 45 mins after the bridge and getting a bus back took forever. Oh well.
Today I woke and went to the nearby Hampshire Falls. They were quite picturesque and full of people swimming and washing themselves. I found it wonderfully relaxing. I returned to town and have just checked into my hotel in Mandalay. It’s very nice, clean and I think pretty new. Take care and stay tuned for the next installment! May the journey never end!