We were not prepared for this! We knew it would be long. We knew the train was old. We knew it would be uncomfortable but nothing could prepare us for the gruelling experience of an overnight train in Myanmar!
We arrived at the allocated platform on time and thankfully enough the train arrived on schedule. We left at 4pm as planned, even though it felt like the middle of the afternoon.
We had booked a 4 person carriage with 4 bunk beds and its own little toilet. We were sharing with a French couple who seemed as equally excited and bemused as we were. You order your food and drinks before the train leaves the platform as from now on until the train stops to serve the food, you are locked in your carriage with the doors locked and no means to get out! We’ve travelled on trains in Thailand and Vietnam and have always been able to walk about the carriages but in Myanmar you are locked in the entire journey until the train stops and even then you are served food etc through the open windows!
Like the Yangon Circular Train, the long distance trains were old donated Japanese trains which were in very bad condition. The bottom bunks were big enough but the upper bunks were tiny and we had read of it being so rocky that people had even fallen out of the top bunks landing on the floor! All plans of who would get which bunk were quickly revised and we decided we would share the lower bunk together. Being squashed appealed more than possibly dislocating a shoulder or worse! The French couple seemed to have the same idea.
It certainly was an experience passing through local villages and towns with children running up to the train with huge smiles on their faces.
We were warned that it would get cold overnight and had brought extra clothes and throws that were more suitable for the beach. Just as well, as there was only 2 pillows and one small sheet for the two beds. Just one sheet!
The train occasionally stopped in what seemed like the middle of nowhere with no explanations. Some people, presumably those on normal train seats, got off for a smoke, or, discreetly as they could, find a place to answer the call of nature. On one occasion I saw someone frantically run up to the back of the train grasping a spanner?!
Beware if travelling on this train as on a few occasions, when stopped in villages, the local kids thought it was funny to throw small stones into the carriage, or worse, bucketfuls of water! On one occasion, our French companions got their laptop and camera equipment soaked! It became a case of, on approaching a stop, we would quickly close the windows, which otherwise remained open throughout the journey.
Instead of the advertised 18 hours we arrived 20 hours later. We were now in Bagan!
How we got through the journey
Bring water and snacks. Local vendors will sell you everything, but at an inflated price.
Bring warm clothes or blankets.
Bring something to entertain you like pre recorded movies or music.
Carry a torch or preferably a head lamp. The toilet is DARK!
Bring toilet tissue and hand sanitizer.
Bring a sense of humour! And camera!