Train Yangon MandalayYangon Mandalay train
Canyon to Mandalay by train - Our slow way to Mandalay
One of the most unforgettable trips of our life will be Yangon to Mandalay by train. It is definitely the slower way to Mandalay, so read our train travel advice from Yangon to Mandalay and be ready to go. We are approaching the end of a months stay in Myanmar and are upgrading a travel guide - a months full of travel adventures that are becoming rarer and rarer in a fast-growing Southeast Asia.
A highlight of our Myanmar journey was without a doubt the train journey from Yangon to Mandalay. It' a very long way to Mandalay, but it's well-worthwhile. Here is what awaits you on the Yangon to Mandalay tracks, with hints on how to make yourself as comfort-y.
Almost four -week ago we started our Myanmar adventures with a long train ride to Mandalay. This comfortable 647 km long train ride from Yangon to Mandalay is one of the most unforgettable adventures of our group. We started our long train ride from Yangon to Mandalay with a 6am and ended when we entered the train terminal shortly after 9.30pm.
We' d been reading that the train to Mandalay was one of the most remarkable train journeys in Myanmar, so instead of taking a plane - with a flying experience of an overall 1 hr 10 min - we chose to take almost 16 hrs along the old British railroad and watch the scenery pass at a speed a slug would mock.
But we really couldn't have afforded the extra amount of money. We' d come to Myanmar to upgrade a travel guide, and our timetable was already very short. We had to reschedule another train ride to Myanmar for various reason. A luxurious train ride, oddly enough. However, we could not continue to travel the way we have been lately.
When I was in Vietnam for two and a half week to take pictures for a travelling mag that included seven trips in two week, Lara had started the Thai part of the guide updates. This rush, which we did not like at all, did not stop during our stay in Northern Thailand, where we took up even more work.
The arrival in Myanmar, where nothing is rash, provided the ideal occasion to re-charge our long distance batteries while we are still working. It seemed like a long, sluggish train ride. One of my favorite trip recollections is train journeys. With their huge panoramic views, the magnificent scenic views of Switzerland and Scandinavia offer stunning views of the mountains and the seas.
A slim train that took us from Jerez to Madrid with a good glass of good wines and excellent cuisine. However, a train ride that will always accompany me is our first encore in Italy many years ago. I was on our way from Genoa to Rome when our train arrived in Pisa.
Lara and I were looking at each other at the same moment and thought the same thing - how could we not go to Pisa! and we packed our rucksacks and got off the train just before the lock. Whilst the luxuries of having the spare moment to update the guide are not possible on a journey, we have chosen to take the train from Yangon to Mandalay to see more of Myanmar for the guide we are working on than if we were just to cover the "must" targets of the guide we are working on.
This was still a working days for me, but it was best to have a free time as we wanted to go on this journey. One guidebook later compared it to 16-hour horseback rides. During our regular visits to small train terminals, crowds of crowds waited for our arrivals, quickly climbing aboard to sit in a seat or selling Myanmar refreshments and beverages.
In case I failed to take a picture because the train had actually overtaken the aforementioned cattle-powered wood wagons, the next episode of Land/Dorf/Bahnhof offered another chance to try again. Soon I had the set of things that would happen with every train stop under control. There was the hasty art of sale of the merchants, who moved quickly through the airy cars and sold everything from cooked chickens and quail egg, via local curries and rices, which they mixed with their own local hand, to teas and coffees made to order from huge canteens.
Being the only westerners on the train was a constant attraction and entertainment for the locals. Salesmen with samosan cups and curry and paddy jars passed right by and thought that aliens were too afraid to try the regional cuisine, but traders with a few beer in their buckets of soft drink quickly moved in on us.
Obviously 9 o'clock was the customary hours of cocktails for aliens on this all-day trip! Around that point, as the train was passing through another town, Lara turned to me and smiles and says: "We would have been in our Mandalay hotels if we had gone. Traveling by train from Yangon to Mandalay was exactly what we needed to remember how much we love the train and what a pleasure it could be to just look out the windows and not on a telephone or notebook display.
Overnight at The Strand and the personnel there purchased our train ticket for us and organised our early breakfast cab to the train/trainstation. PARKROYAL is very near the train terminal, but probably too near, as you probably won't find a cab to take you the long way; the loft is a little further down the street, which could run next to it and organize a taxid.
This is our selection of the best hotel in Yangon. You can buy your ticket just three nights before departure directly from Yangon Central and Yangon tourist agencies. It was not possible to buy a ticket on line at the moment of creating this article. On the date of the trip (April 2015), the price of the ticket is US$25 / 25,000 kyats (pronounced "chat") per passenger for reserved softs in the upper class cars; US$10 / 10,000 kyats for rigid benches in the normal cars, which cannot be reserved; and US$50 / 50,000 kyats for sleepers.
Though a Sleeper waiting list was provided, there were no Sleeper cars on our train. On our train from Yangon to Mandalay, the famous 6 o'clock in the morning, the cars were dirty old cars with dirty flooring and dirty partitions. At the beginning of the journey the Russian restrooms (western seats at one end, Asiatic knee bends at the other end) were tidy but quickly became poor.
The train was not as beautiful and neat as the pictures of the train at The Man in Seat 61, nor did it have a dining coaches. But the journey was still marvelous. Use lavatory paper/towels, sunscreen, a lunggyi (the kind of Sarong men wear in Myanmar) to put on the windows, the blazing hot summer light, hot showers of hot and cold running hot tubs of coffee/tea, many snack bars in case you don't like what is onboard or you are afraid of getting sic... and mosquito repellent for the few after sundown.
Hawker also offer bottled waters, warm and cool beverages and meals on the train, but there are long seasons when nothing is on sale. The carriers welcome you at Mandalay train terminal. Inquire your hotels to arrange a cab to pick you up at Mandalay train terminal and know the price in advance.
There' ll be some cabs at the train depot, but they'll certainly try to overload you. More information can be found in Man in Seat 61 for many good details about traveling by train in Myanmar. Take a look at our weekend route in Mandalay, where you will be busy on two of Mandalay's weekends, from sightseeing and activities to restaurants and drinks.
We will publish our Mandalay guidebook soon, but in the meantime there are some recommended hotels in this article. It is formally known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, but many favour the Anglophone version of Myanmar, which became famous during Britain's Colonisation.
Throughout our Myanmar monthly, the great majority of the natives we encountered, from Yangon to Shan states, named their land "Myanmar. Myanmar " is a more comprehensive name; while "Burma" indicates that it is the land of the Bamar/Burmeses or Burmese-speaking tribe, which makes up about 68% of the Burmese populace, "Myanmar" encompasses all of them.
You been to Myanmar? Here is why you will need to come to Yangon soon and some of our favorite pastimes in Yangon if you do it. Myanmar has a lot to offer. One of the reasons you have to go is because of the Myanmar cuisine.
Professionally trained travel/food editor/business photojournalist and author in Asia.