11.03.2013 - 11.03.2013 35 °C
We had a bright an early start of 6.45 this morning to get breakfast, finish packing and check out in time to get the 8.20 train to Hsipaw. We are really fed up of the breakfasts here; every day is the same, horrible sweet, dry bread, an egg, banana and artificial jam. It is really not worth having to get up especially early for.
We ended up cutting it a bit fine, the train pulled into the station as we were in the station masters office paying for the ticket. The ticked cost $3 for ordinary class which is more than adequate even for the 7 hour duration. The train is slow and can be quite bumpy but Liam thinks it is more comfortable than the buses as he has leg room and can get up and walk around if need be.
Once we paid for the ticket the man told us something in broken English that we did not understand. There are only so many times you can ask someone to repeat something without sounding rude so we had to pretend we understood, smiled, said thank you and walked off. The train was stood in the station for a while but no one was making any attempt to board. In this time we met a ‘friend’ who was already on the train. He saw us through the window and smiled and waved at us, we were polite back but were concentrating on when to get on the train. Chelsea then decided to go ask the station master again what he said as it seemed important. Whilst she was gone Liam looked at the window where our ‘friend’ had been and he had gone, he looked around to see where Chelsea had got to and when he turned round our ‘friend’ was stood about 6 inch in front of him with a creepy grin on his face. Thankfully Chelsea came to Liam’s aid as she reappeared and he seemed more interested in her constantly stroking her arm until his wife appeared and he stopped. The station master was trying to tell us that three more carriages would be attached to the train and then we are in number three. Once the carriages were attached (basically they just rammed them into the rest of the train) we counted 1, 2,3, from the very back and got on. We found our seats but were almost immediately moved by the person checking our tickets. Apparently carriage 3 is the very back one, it goes 3, 2, 1 then who knows what the other dozen carriages numbers are.
The journey itself was great. It was 7 hours but it did not feel it. Sometimes it is very bumpy and you will be catapulted out of your seat, or you will be swaying violently left to right but for the most part it was smooth and steady. Our carriage was surprisingly empty apart from a handful of other people and it was quiet. At the next stop a woman and her young daughter got on the train and it was obvious the woman had let her daughter choose where to sit because she sat straight opposite us although most of the train was free. We did not mind though, they were very nice and although they spoke zero English we managed to communicate a bit. We shared our food and at one point the little girl was eating some kind of strawberry jelly in a jam out of a vacuum packed packet and offered Chelsea some. Chelsea tried it but it was incredibly sour and shocked her but she smiled and said thank you laughing and pretending to like it. We took a photo of her and showed her the picture and they were both excited and amazed. They were really lovely and smiled at us the whole way.
Most of the journey is through very rural areas with farmers’ fields and shanty housing. The whole reason we came on the train however was to go over Goteik viaduct. Chelsea was a little disappointed as she thought it was wooden but it turned out to be a large metal viaduct spanning a valley. Barely wide enough for the train it is like several pylons holding up a rail way track. We stood at the back to get a good view and take some pictures. On the trains here the doors are open so we could stand in the doorway and look the hundreds of feet straight down, that is until we became a little too scared, and retreated back to the seats.
After the viaduct we just sat back and took in the view. We managed to sleep a little bit but it wasn’t long before you were shook awake by the movement of the train. At one point the train was moving side to side so violently Liams backpack fell on Chelsea head almost knocking her out. We did wonder why the conductor had signalled for us to clip out bags on to the overhead compartment with our straps. We bought some noodles for lunch off a vendor with the help woman sat opposite; it was delicious, cold noodles tossed in veg and chilli, almost like a noodle salad. The woman then bought us what at first appeared to BBQ chicken on a stick but turned out to be chicken fat and skin on a stick, with a few bones thrown in for good measure. We ate it to be polite, thankfully we didn’t pick a skewer with chicken feet on. The only negative for our trip was our ‘friend’. Every time the train stopped at a major station he would appear in the carriage, making sure we were still on the train. Sometimes he would stand in the doorway staring, other times he would sit on one of the seats near us. Towards the end Liam just started pretending he was asleep until he went away as he was making him uncomfortable. Chelsea nervously laughed and smiled at him, the woman and little girl sat with us smiled and laughed at Chelsea laughing.
The woman opposite helped us again when getting off the train as we did not know which our stop was. It turned out that she was also going to Hsipaw. Low and behold though the first person we saw when we stepped on the platform at Hsipaw was our ‘friend’, we quickly made b-line in the opposite direction.
Our guesthouse that we had booked Pyin Oo Lwin was waiting for us when we arrived, so it was really easy to get to the guesthouse. We are staying in Lilly The Home, it was recommend by our friends we saw in Yangon and it is nice. It is new and clean and is only costing is $20 a night with a shared bathroom.
We were both quite exhausted from the journey so after we checked in we went for a drink. Our guesthouse told us of a coffee shop on the river so we checked it out. Liam ordered a beer and Chelsea an ice coffee as we went through the café and out onto the river side. It was a concrete backyard with mix match patio furniture. The highlight was the doors going off the backyard. Two of the doors read ‘Toilet’ and all the other doors leading off the backyard said, ‘Not Toilet’, we had a good chuckle at that. The coffee Chelsea ordered was terrible. It was like hot coffee that had been left to go cold and served as ice coffee. It was also made of filter coffee and had never seen the filter it was majorly gritty. The view however was very nice. It was blissfully quiet and we watched the famers return from a day in fields with their ox and wash in the river. We sat there for nearly an hour before moving on for something to eat.
Another recommendation of our guesthouse but this one was a lot better. It is a Chinese restaurant and we ordered pork and rice. It was spicy and cooked with fresh veg and was very tasty. We had another beer but by this point we were shattered so made our way back. It has been a long day but very enjoyable, tomorrow we are hoping to relax in the peacefulness of Hsipaw, once breakfast is out of the way.