Sunday, September 18, 2011

a shocking rocking railway day

The train to Thazi left at 6am. I needed to be at the station by 05.30 so I caught a taxi. Even at this early hour the streets of Yangon were bustling with activity.

Thazi is a tiny town/village almost 3/4 the way from Yangon to Mandalay. It is a major rail intersection and I needed to get there to catch the 'slow train to Inle' which had a certain romantic ring to it! The only viable way of getting to Thazi was the train from Yangon.

The seats were very comfortable on the train when I boarded, wide and reclinable. The track however was from the fourth circle of Hell!!

It took 13 hours to Thazi and much of it was like being astride an epileptic race horse on a roller coaster track. I can't quite describe how violent the jumping of the train carriage was when the train got up to speed. It was incredible that the carriages managed to stay on the tracks. At one stage I needed to use the loo - but it was not only putrid inside, the rocking from side to side would have made squatting over the seat like trying to take a dump on a pogo stick. I gritted my teeth and held on!

I was VERY happy to get to my destination.

Someone recommended a guest house in Thazi. I found it easily enough (and I don't remember it's exact name) but I didn't stay there as they had no hot water and wanted $8 for a single room which I swear was originally the space under the staircase.

There was another place a couple of doors up (perhaps there being only two guest houses in town?) which did have hot water and my basic room was $7. The owners son also kindly gave me a lift on his scooter to a restaurant at the other end of the main street for dinner. I've heard Thazi referred to as a transit town which seems fair enough, and I couldn't see enough of it to make a real judgment. As it was I had to be up and back at the station by 04.30 the next morning for the slow train.

This next train took just over 11 hours, cost $7 and is a fraction of the distance to the previous ride. But it was really pleasant. It travels up into the mountains with several switchbacks, goes v-e-r-y slowly and therefore sways gently and stops a fair few times for 20 - 30 minutes - enough to get out, stretch the legs and buy some food if needed. The scenery is also very nice, the air cooler and I really enjoyed it.

One thing that struck me (or nearly struck me as it turns out) is the 'jungle' or vegetation either side of the train track which grows right up to the window edge of the train. It can be quite hazardous resting even your elbow outside the window lest it be thwacked by some razor grass or a thorny bush. On one of my train rides my open window was acting like hedge shears and I was slowly being covered by hedge clippings where I sat.

yangon to thazi train

thazi to inle train

look closely: this is 'upper class' (ordinary class, 1st class then upper class)


Anonymous said...

A very interesting blog, I love it.Cheers!

Benjamin Meunier said...

Hi! Very interesting! Thanks!
Do you remember the name of your guesthouse in Thazi?

TC said...

Hi Benjamin, unfortunately because I am currently travelling I cannot access my travel journal (which would have the hotel name.) But if you go to Thazi I think there are only a couple of hotels, both on the main street. From the railway station it is only a ten minute walk to the high street, or a dollar by pony and cart! Of the two almost side by side it was the left side (facing the buidings) of the two!