A spectacular train journey was not the first thing we thought of when we started planning our backpacking route around Myanmar. But a little research into the ‘things to do’ in Myanmar, presented us with the journey from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw by train.
This particular train journey is renowned for its amazing scenery and to travel over the Goteik viaduct, the highest railway bridge in the world when it was built in 1901.
We loved it so much that we wanted to share it with you and encourage you to pop in if you’re in the area (and, actually, even make a special trip if you’re not!)
The Journey From Pyin Oo Lwin To Hsipaw By Train.
We jumped in the back of a pick up truck to make our way from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin.
It took us two hours, 30p, a few locals taking our photos, and a wee with lunch break for the engine to cool down on the pick up truck.
As Pyin Oo Lwin is a hill station, we had a big old climb up through the mountains from Mandalay.
The scenery was mesmerising, particularly as the last passengers into the pickup truck we were wedged in and hanging out of the back.
Pyin Oo Lwin itself is worth a visit for its colonial buildings, to see (or ride) in their miniature stagecoaches used as taxis.
It was originally called Maymyo meaning ‘May Town’ after its founder Colonel May, a Colonel from the Bengal Infantry in 1896. It was also initially discovered as a place to escape the Mandalay heat.
We stayed for one night in Pyin Oo Lwin at Royal Flower Guesthouse which was perfect for us. It is a cute little guesthouse with some really lovely owners, who took the time to show us on a map the local sites to visit and rented us a couple of push bikes to explore them on.
The room and guesthouse itself were brilliant and an absolute steal for the price! You can check out what we saw on our colonial bicycle tour (on equally colonial bicycles!) of Pyin Oo Lwin here.
Train Ticket Booking Tips
The day you arrive, we would recommend popping along to the train station to reserve your ticket for the train journey the following day.
Ideally try to reserve a seat on the left hand side of the train as that’s where you’ll see the curve for the Goteik viaduct. (Obviously if you’re travelling in reverse from Hsipaw to Pyin Oo Lwin then pick the right hand side, but you probably worked that out on your own!)
You will need to take your passport and choose whether you’d like to travel in upper class or in an ordinary seat. The main difference between the two is that your upper class seat (2,750 kyat) will be a squishy one and likely surrounded by a few more foreigners.
Locals will more likely travel in the ordinary seats (1,200 kyat) and they may be a little harder on the bottom.
Arriving in the train station, locate the ticket office and pay your kyat to secure your chosen seat. Check out the train times and info here.
We caught the train early the next morning. If you like, you can organise with the guesthouse owner to drop you off at the train station – saving an early morning walk!
Train times in Myanmar can be a little wishy-washy, arriving and departing earlier or hours later than scheduled (just to keep everyone on their toes).
So, we arrived at 7:30am to catch the train arriving at 7:52am and departing at 8:22am. Luckily the train was only ten minutes late in leaving the station.
It was a fascinating journey as the train swayed back and forth – we literally screeched and bounced our way along the tracks.
We just sat back and stared out the window with our camera poised…
At each station local vendors would get on the train and walk up and down selling their food in baskets on their heads.
The doors and windows were all open and so, it was surprisingly relaxing to sit back and just watch the beautiful Burmese countryside pass by.
And, witness everyday Burmese life.
The toilet situation was an interesting one. Thankfully it was western style, in that it had a place to rest your bum, but there wasn’t any plumbing – you watch the tracks go past in between your legs. Therefore, depositing is encouraged between stations.
The main draw of the journey is the viaduct and we stopped at Goteik Station long enough to get out and walk along the tracks to the beginning of it.
The train then trickled along the bridge so not to over exert the ageing engineering. It was a big drop down to the treetops and waterfalls running below.
Safely over the viaduct, it was then another few hours on to Hsipaw so we sat back and watched the world, and the odd mouse, go by.
This was, hands down, the best train journey we have ever experienced.
We hope you love the journey from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw by train as much as we did – let us know how you got on!