For many travelers, the best way to get from A to B in a foreign country is by train. The tracks tend to pass through rural areas inaccessible by car, the pace is a bit slower, large windows provide fabulous views and there is often the opportunity to interact with the local travelers. Train travel in Myanmar is not as comfortable as in other countries but the experience is equally rewarding.
The Myanmar rail system was started in the 1870s by the British and has since grown to more than 5,400 km of railways with over 350 commuter trains. Whilst the network is vast and covers some beautiful parts of Myanmar, it is in poor condition with very little in the way of upgrades or repairs over the last few decades. The tracks are often uneven, resulting in swaying carriages or bumpy journeys making it uncomfortable or hard to sleep for some travelers. The carriages offer a first class option but this simply means a larger, cushioned seat- the air conditioning rarely works and the toilets are either local-style squat or a very simple â€˜regularâ€™ commode.
But perhaps because of this simplistic system, traveling by train in Myanmar delivers a unique experience. The friendly locals are often surprised to see foreign visitors on the train and often share snacks or drinks as a sign of hospitality. As there is rarely a dining cart on the train, each station brings a chance for vendors to hop onboard and sell items such as boiled quail eggs, green mango, fried dumplings or other snacks in addition to tea, soft drinks and juices.
Here we list some of our favorite rail journeys in Myanmar- notable for their scenery as well as the opportunities they provide for local interaction.
Yangon's Circular Line- The circular line is a commuter train that loops around Yangon's outer suburbs and downtown area. The entire journey takes 3 hours but it is fun to jump off at a random station to discover a more local part of town. This journey is not only interesting for the outside scenery but also for the vendors and commuters hopping on and off the train. The train departs every 30 minutes from Yangon's downtown station.
The Goteik Viaduct- North of Mandalay near the former British hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin is the Goteik Viaduct. The rail line crosses over this canyon at a height of 250 metres and when it was built in 1899 it was the highest railway trestle of its time. For visitors, the ride across the viaduct is both breathtaking and a bit nerve-wracking as the carriages sway gently to and fro. The train origininates in Mandalay and terminates in Lashio with a dozen stops along the way. It runs 4 times a day, two north-bound and two south-bound.
Mandalay to Bagan- The roads between Mandalay and Bagan are fantastic and the journey will only take 4-5 hours by car or bus. But the train follows a path that is far more scenic, so for those who are not in a hurry it is highly recommended. Departing from central Mandalay, the scenery changes dramatically as the city fades from view and the countryside appears. The train meanders slowly and passes through farms, fields and villages and reveals scenes of life in rural Myanmar as you pass from the lush, riverside landscapes outside of Mandalay in to the dry zone terrain surrounding Bagan.
Yangon to Pyay- This Myanmar train ride is a historic one since this is the first stretch of track laid in the country. Although the bus journey is half the time of the train trip, the railway is a relaxing option and filled with lovely scenery. Be sure to stay awake for the first part of the journey as the train exits the busy city centre of Yangon and then, before long, is passing through rural fields and farms.
If you are interested in traveling by train- for a few hours or for a longer journey- please let your sales consultant know. Mighty Myanmar is able to incorporate train rides in to almost any itinerary, so please let us know your preference.