Bago-Mawlamyine by train

Another travel day, Monday. I had a last run in Bago. It really is an unlovely place; the pagodas and temples are pretty, the small shopping centre an oasis, but the river, which might one day be some sort of social centre, is undeveloped, so essentially it is a busy road with buildings either side. Still, one busy road feels easier to handle than a whole city of them, and I don’t regret having a couple of nights here having escaped Yangon so quickly. Last night, my hosts brought my washing, followed soon after by some home-made honey juice, in case I wasn’t feeling at home enough.

My room, Bago
My room, San Francisco guest house, Bago.

But I was. Sat in a light and spacious twin room, the Korean film ‘Train to Busan’ on the laptop, and master of my own time.

Handwritten ticket
Handwritten ticket, for the 9.00 train to Mawlamyine (and beyond, down to Ye).

I bought my ticket on the day, getting to the station with 50 minutes to spare in case I found it extra difficult. It’s not, though, and a local took me to the right counter anyway. Later, there was a rush from locals for tickets – it seemed as though I, and a few others, were okay to buy tickets early, others had to wait. ‘Warmly welcome and assist tourists’, indeed. 3,150 kyats for Bago to Mawlamyine. Waiting for the train was simple – access to the platforms was locked, and the train was due to pull in at the near platform. When we were allowed on, an old monk walked up to me with great dignity, shook my hand and chatted away. I have no idea what he said, but followed him down the platform and hopped on where he said, which worked out just fine. (In case you don’t know it, by the way, The Man in Seat 61 is the fount all much wisdom for train travels around the world. It helped me first with travelling from the UK to Ireland, then UK to Russia, Thailand to Malaysia and continues to help. Not least the timetables, which otherwise I can’t read here.)

In motion, with door open
In motion, with the door open, something about safety, etc.
Temples/Stupas hove into view
Temples/Stupas hove into view.
Selling food, balanced on the head
People walk through selling food, usually balanced on their head.
Wooden houses
Wooden houses.
Local houses
Local houses.
Kids waving at the train
Kids waving – they do this, though sometimes it seems almost a reflex, as they wave at the carriage passing, while looking down the train and therefore missing me waving back. I suppose I should be leaning out to make sure they spot me.
Water buffalo
Water buffalo. Later on I spotted some slick with water, looking blissed as they emerged from a stream. ‘Stream’ probably sounds a bit small to take buffalo, but there were some very narrow watery spots used for navigation by boats, so possibly they are manmade and, although looking like a long puddle, are actually reasonably deep.
Small local station
Small local station – request stops, I think. If the train doesn’t stop, there will be a member of staff with a green flag to wave the train through.
Bridge into Mawlamyine
View from the bridge into Mawlamyine.
Mawlamyine from the bridge.
Mawlamyine from the bridge.
Mawlamyine from the bridge.
Mawlamyine from the bridge.
They don’t know, but they’ve been told
They don’t know, but they’ve been told.

Although we’d got to the first stop a good 30 minutes late, we pulled into Mawlamyine almost on time (4.50pm) and I wandered from the station to the Cinderella hotel, who had space in their dorm for me to chill out in for a bit before walking down to the riverfront. Mawlamyine is a bit more walkable than other cities – it’s the 3rd or 4th biggest depending on where you get your info, with a little over 300,000 inhabitants, but they seem to be pretty spread out, so there is space enough on most streets for people and vehicles.

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