Our day taking the Slow Train to Thazi started well. The taxi arrived on time at the fabulous Zawgyi Inn (details and prices here), we were heading for the train station in Shwe Nyaung – just 8 km away from Nyaung Shwe on the shores of Inle Lake, to catch the first of two trains. With any luck our first train would get to Thazi on time and we’d catch a second train to Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital and get in by 2200. If it didn’t, well there was a second train that got in around midnight.
We’re taking the advice of the ManfromSeat61 again – the Slow Train to Thazi is one of those train trips not to miss.
And so, as our taxi driver makes sure that we have a ticket (2,950 kyat US$2.30), makes sure we are in the right seats in our Upper Class carriage we wait for the train to depart.
We’re the only Westerners we’ll see all day. It seems to please our carriage conductor, he makes sure to stop by each time he travels past and check that we’re ok.
When we travelled there was very little online booking available for buses, trains and ferries in Myanmar and South East Asia – the folks at Easybook have now remedied that – check timetables and book tickets online now – its WAY easier!
The train takes all day. Literally. We set off 10 minutes early at 0750. And it’s very, very, basic.
And at first we’re on our own.
Later the train fills.
This is definitely the locals train. It’s fabulous.
Many station platforms that we stop at are covered with fresh produce.
It looks like chaos. Everyone has a distinct job and collectively they’re trying to get all this produce into the goods wagon that’s behind our carriage.
Cabbages, pumpkins, onions, tomatoes. They’re all packed into bamboo baskets and bags. Sealed, and then weighed. It’s a woman running the show with her clipboard and notes.
Then a team of four load, two of them pick up the loaded bag and roll it onto the back of a lean, incredibly well muscled heavily sweating man. He balances it across his shoulders, and stalks towards the goods wagon. A run up the ramp and it’s in. His colleague takes the next bag.
It’s an amazingly well oiled, incredibly organized machine. This is not chaos as we know it.
The train fills and empties and stops and starts. We’re not that much of a curiosity, people are just getting on with their lives. Each platform we stop at has its fair share of women.
Their children tied to their backs with scarves, they’re buying and selling produce, food, laughing, smiling. This seems an incredibly happy society.
Most of the women and small children paint their faces with Thanaka Paste – its the ground bark of the Thanaka tree, used as a protection against the sun and to help keep their skin young.
There are switchbacks here on this route, like there were when we took the train over the Gokteik Viaduct – another must do train trip we heard of from the ManfromSeat61. It’s quite lovely countryside here.
And so it goes on until we arrive, on time, into Thazi at 1900. Our friendly conductor waylays another man (randomly it seems) and tells him (we assume) that he has to take us to the ticket office to get a ticket to Naypyidaw, that we want to catch the express train. So we do as we’re told and trot off following him and buy a ticket.
This train will continue to Naypyidaw, but only after a rest of three hours and it is, after all, the Slow Train to Thazi.
The Slow Train to Thazi Resources
Don’t forget to book your buses, ferries and trains – and confirm your travel. Easybook have the largest network in South East Asia!
- The Man From Seat 61 – Myanmar Trains
- Like trains? Read about our experience on Indian Trains.
- Where to Stay in NyaungShwe – The Zawgyi Inn
- Where to Stay in Naypyidaw – we stayed at the San Chain Hotel