Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Letting the train take the strain

From Hsipaw, we let Duncan take the truck onwards, and we all took the train for part of the journey, so that we could see the impressive Gok Teik viaduct.  We also fancied the idea of trying out the old train too.

Mind you, we started to worry what we had let ourselves in for when we saw our tickets.  The price was made up of two elements, the expected cost of the fare, and then a less expected and rather more concerning, life insurance cover.  Not that the insurance cover cost very much, so I don't think our families would have been getting any great windfall.

For now though, we put that out of our minds and focussed on the journey.  It was fun to see everybody at the stations.  We were particularly fascinated by the women carrying their wares on their heads, not only because of how much they carried, but also the sheer skill and getting it up and down without dropping anything.

The train itself was very comfortable.  Myo had bought us tickets in the luxury section, and we had enormous seats with loads of legroom. We were also impressed to find the seats could be turned around, so you could choose whether to face backwards or forwards.

 The motion of the train though was not something everyone found so comfortable.  It had been described to us as like riding a horse, and I can see why.  It passed through a slow and steady side to side motion, like a horse walking, through a faster back and forth motion like a trot, on to a canter like burst of speed, before reaching the fully fledged lurching of the gallop. I quite enjoyed it, but some others were not so keen.

We passed the monastery we had been staying at, and through some lovely scenery, where we saw the people working the fields with their hand plough, oxen and water buffalo.

When we reached the viaduct at Nawnghkio, we could see why it was regarded as important.  When it was built by the British in 1901, using a structure imported from the Pennsylvania Steel Company, it was the largest railway trestle bridge in the world.

 From end to end it is 2260 feet across, and at 335 feet high it remains the tallest bridge in Myanmar.

The fabulous gorge itself adds to the look of the experience, as the train trundles slowly across from one side to another.

The train stops on the other side, so you can quickly get off a take, a photo, but in all honesty, aside from when you are actually on the bridge, I think that the best photos come a little afterwards.  The train makes a few hairpin turns to wind its way up the hill, so you suddenly get a view of the bridge on the other side ofthe train, and then again a bit further up.  These are good views of it, so don't settle back too comfortably until after that.

We got off at the next stop and rejoined Duncan and Xara, as well as our little car and escorts, and went the rest of the way to Pyin Oo Lwin by truck.

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