November 22, 2014

hsipaw to mandalay

i leave Hsipaw on the train heading down to Mandalay and some vague plan to get myself to Inle Lake.  according to the guide books, this is an 'epic train ride'.  seriously?  i already did the Yangon to Bagan train which in my humble opinion is the ride required to earn a I SURVIVED MYANMAR RAILWAYS badge.  there is however, along this ride a very beautiful gorge with a very, very scary train bridge.  it's so old and crappy and rickety that the train has to go really slow as not to deteriorate the bridge further.  why not just go really fast and get as many carriages as possible across before the bridge collapses?  or how about you just pony up the money to replace the bridge?  note on the ticket stub i've purchased .... THERE IS AN ACTUAL ALLOCATION FROM MY FARE FOR LIFE INSURANCE!!! what am i doing??  the total cost of this ticket is 2750 Kyats which is $2.75US so i'm not sure how much the insurance payment would be anyway.

it's a big moment for all the foreigners [the locals sleep through it].  we are excited before, during and after crossing the gorge/bridge.  we even ask for seat assignments to have the best view of the bridge.  we take hundreds of photos and hang out the windows.

afterwards someone says to me, 'i have like 100 photos of a bridge'.  yah, i know you are dying to see it... so here it is.

perhaps as important as the safety issues around replacing the carriages and bridges and other railway infrastructure is reinventing the logo for Myanmar Railways.  i get the MR but what's up with the symbols underneath?  time to rebrand i think.

anyways, it's a 6 hour train ride and costs $2.75US.  when we hit Pyin U Lwin we bail on the train and take a $2US/2 Hour pick up for the ride back to Mandalay.  i make a feeble suggestion to get a shared taxi as that would be inside a vehicle but i go along with the fellow travelers who want to take the pick up.  even though it is raining.  the ride is surreal but not uncomfortable.  the pickup is covered so we aren't wet or cold.  i put on my earphones and just soak it up.  the smoke from a cigarette, the rain on the canvas covering our heads, the guy who is sleeping on the floor between our feet, the bundles and bags that the locals carry, the lights from passing cycles, cars and trucks.  this is Burma.  raw, unfiltered, dirty and noisy.  i've been traveling all day and i should be exhausted but i am so alive.

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