Hill Station Train

Each day a train departs Mandalay and travels a mountainous route via Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin) and Hsipaw before arriving 12 long hours later in Lashio at the northern tip of the Shan State. Undoubtedly loved for its on-board cultural exchanges and the dense jungle panoramas, rather than its on-board comfort and facilities (the Orient Express this is not!), the line was built by the British and is considered something of a masterpiece by today’s train officiado’s.

The highlight for many, aside from the stops in Maymyo and Hsipaw is the infamous Gokteik Viaduct, spanning a deep gorge of around 300 metres. The viaduct was constructed in just nine months and at the time was the 2nd longest bridge in the world. Renovated in 1951 after being bombed during WW2 and again in the 90’s, it is again in desperate need of repair and the train currently takes 20 minutes to cross in an attempt to minimise pressure and further any damage. With open air on either side, for many it is nothing short of terrifying!

Whilst the train appeals to many it is worth remembering that it takes half the time to drive to the various stops and given that 1st class seats are made of coconut shell hair, the levels of comfort are questionable at best. In reality for many it is a rather arduous journey. It’s also worth noting that when travelling by car you descend to the bottom of the Gokteik Valley, with commanding views of the viaduct on the way down.

Total journey times from Mandalay:

Maymyo – 4 hrs

Hsipaw – 8 hrs

Lashio – 12 hrs

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