Taking the train from Yangon to Bagan was one of the highlights of the trip. It’s a known fact that train travel in Myanmar isn’t luxurious, to say the least. So, when we bought our tickets we decided to go for the “sleeper class” instead of regular seats. I couldn’t bring myself to sit on a bamboo bench for a 16-hour ride that turned into 20. Trains don’t go fast, they travel at about 15-30 km/hour (9-18 mph). I don’t think I’d want to get on a train moving faster than that either. The train moved in every direction – up and down, side to side, and backwards and forwards. Bumps sent me flying into the air a few times. Then there were the moments when the train would stop… apparently they needed to fix the tracks we were riding on.
Take a look at this quick video (below) to see a bit of the scenery and what I mean when I say it was a “bumpy ride!”
Riding the train showed me so many different parts of Myanmar. As we rolled along the tracks at 9 mph I smelled dinner cooking, I saw people climbing sugar palm trees to harvest the sugar, I saw men and women working in the fields, and children both working and playing. I saw happiness, but I also saw poverty. People in Myanmar, especially the children, love to wave and say hello. I saw children that would chase the train to play and wave at those passing by, but I also saw children who chased the train in order to eat, as people would throw food out of the window for them. I couldn’t help but feel mixed emotions as I saw them jumping and falling to catch food; I was glad they would eat, but it didn’t feel right that they had to chase their nourishment. Their eyes were piercing; some would wave and smile, others just stared. Traveling by train allowed me to see the parts of Myanmar that are otherwise hidden (as much as possible) from tourists. The journey was unforgettable; it showed me the reality of many Burmese people and introduced me to the children living next to the railway.