Myanmar is a great country for train rides. They are not for comfort, but for the scenery outside, life on the stations and life on board. I was heading for Inle Lake and this was to be my third train journey.
I had already taken the night train from Yangon to Mandalay and I had crossed the awesome Gokteik Viaduct on a daytrip. Back home, planning my trip to Myanmar, I had come across a website with all kinds of information on train rides across the globe. Seat61 offered this remark on the journey to Shwenyaung:
“So to reach Inle Lake, first take an express train from Rangoon or Mandalay to Thazi and stop overnight, then travel to Shwenyaung on either a bus taking 4-5 hours on bad roads or by far the better option, on an absolutely amazing scenic ride on the ‘Slow Train From Thazi’ as shown below. The train ride might be the highlight of your trip!”
I took that piece of advice with me, but it turned out to be too awkward and time-consuming to board that train in Thazi. I had therefore taken a bus from Bagan to Kalaw, about halfway on the railway line from Thazi. I spent one night in the cool old British hill station. It was a fascinating town, high up in the mountainous region of the Shan State. It was no wonder that the Brits preferred the heights to the hot and damp lowlands of Yangon. They even brought Indians and Nepalese with them. Burma was ruled by the British viceroy in India. There are still quite a large number of them here.
Sign on the Kalaw train station
Kalaw is by the way a popular place for hikes. I contemplated the options but decided on not spending my last days in Myanmar that way. I was heading for the magnificent Inle Lake.
I was however determined to ride the “slow train” at least some of the way, more precisely four hours. At the day of departure I entered the train station’s ticket office and paid 3 USD in cash. As far as I remember the train arrived and left more or less on time.
Here is a collection of pictures from this train ride. At the bottom you will be able to see these and more images on a larger scale.
Staring out of the window on the train from Kalaw to Shwenyaung
The train from Kalaw to Shwenyaung makes a half-hour stop at Aungban
Myanmar trains are desperately in need of proper maintenance, even in a upper class carriage.
A young Burmese boy is looking out of the window
View of the gently rolling countryside from the train to Shwenyaung
The landscape seemed more cultivated than I had seen on my previous trip, to Nawngpeng further north. Apart from that it was a relaxing trip. We had a long stop at Aungban and the train ride was enlivened by a young boy, pictured above in a rare quiet moment while staring out the window. There were quite a few foreigners on this train too. It was a fine way to get to Inle Lake. Actually the train arrives at Shwenyaung, from where there is a 20-30 minute drive into the main town at Inle Lake. It is called Nyaungshwe and is situated on the northern end of the lake.
At the train station in Shwenyaung most foreigners seemed to vanish. I suspect they were picked up by local guides on a pre-arranged deal. I had, as usually, no such arrangements and threw my gear on the top of a vehicle looking like a combination of tuk-tuk and jeepney, and sat down inside with a bunch of locals.
The video from this train ride to Shwenyaung
This article is part of a series from Myanmar, describing my travels in August 2013. My visit is presented in ten chapters, a planning document and an article with some final impressions from a country which is included on just about everyone’s bucket list. Read all chapters: