Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Gokteik Viaduct

Trains in Burma are rarely my preferred option - they move incredibly slowly and break down on a regular basis (so that the train tends to take at least 50% longer than a bus would). They're a rough ride (expect to be shaken about until you feel sick), and they're not that clean (I saw roaches moving around inside the seat across from mine).

But there is one benefit in taking the train between Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw - the Gokteik viaduct.

Gokteik Viaduct

Constructed in 1901 by workers from the Pennsylvania Steel Company, it's a creaky, slow crossing, giving amazing views of the river valley far, far below. You get the best views if you sit on the left hand side when heading north (which is where they automatically put the tourists). Expect all the tourists to be sticking their heads out of the window taking pictures, while the locals on the right hand side of the train snooze away the journey.

Crossing the Gokteik Viaduct

According to LP, it's 318 feet high and 2257 feet across, and at the time of its construction was the second highest railway bridge in the world. It's still pretty impressive.

The rest of the trip, you'll be passing through jungle-clad hills, or corn-covered fields dotted with small stupas, or cows pulling ploughs.

At Pyin Oo Lwin station, you'll need to see the ticket seller in his little back office (just behind the main ticket window) to get a tourist ticket (he'll need to take your name and nationality down). Tourists are automatically sold the "softer" upper class tickets. I suggest you don't try and swap down for a lower class - next down is a hard wooden bench, which is going to get pretty uncomfortable after 6 bone-shaking hours. As of this April, tourists are no longer required to pay in US dollars.

The viaduct is 34 miles (about 2.75 hours by train) north-east of Pyin Oo Lwin. Unfortunately once you're crossed, you're still stuck on the train for another 4 hours up to Hsipaw, if you're on schedule (you probably won't be). 

At several stations, the train will stop for 5-10 minutes, giving you a chance to stretch you legs or buy snacks from the platform vendors. Vendors will also come on board the train, selling snacks, water, and noodles (served in plastic bags with tooth-pick like chopsticks to eat them).

Small rural station, not far out of Pyin Oo Lwin


  1. Rail is very impressive, very beautiful view of the high hill. it can be one of the most fun places to take pictures. wow, I was amazed .

  2. travel by train is nice, but if you see a cockroach ?? OMG, very worrying.
    take a look at the beautiful scenery along the journey, the train in the atmosphere certainly will not feel anymore, and you certainly are not aware if it's a fairly long drive was fast .. nice trip adventure beautiful nature. nice shared :)