Crossing the huge Gokteik Viaduct is one of the highlights of riding the Burmese railways. The 700m long bridge was built in 1901 by an American company for the British Empire but what’s really impressive about the bridge is its height. At just over 100m high across the river, it’s an absolutely amazing view of Gokteik Gorge.
The journey can be done as a day trip from Mandalay but you’ll have to get up at 3am. I’d recommend getting a shared taxi from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin in the morning. Then spend a day exploring the gardens and visit the waterfalls. The next day, catch the train at the much more reasonable time of 8:20am. You need your passport to buy a ticket for 700 kyats in ordinary class or pay more for upper class, which basically has nicer cushioned seats as opposed to wooden. You can purchase tickets the day before. You should take snacks and a big bottle of water. You can buy various snacks and drinks from vendors on the train but it’s worth being prepared encase you don’t fancy what’s on offer.
Gaze out of the open window (there is no glass) as farmland and villages pass slowly by. The rickety old train bounces along for three hours before arriving at the viaduct where it grinds to a halt. At this point the doors of the train are closed in preparation for the crossing (yes they are open for the rest of the journey). The train starts up again at a walking pace allowing plenty of time to lean out of the window and enjoy the view, which is spectacular. The deep gash in the land is covered with trees and you can see the remnants of an old track below. It’s at this point when people start opening the doors again to take photos. Perhaps this is why there are rumors the viaduct could be closed? Or maybe it’s because of the loud creaking as the train crawls along.
The next stop immediately after the viaduct crossing is Nawngpeng. Jump off here and catch the other train back to Pyin Oo Lwin and Mandalay. If you remain aboard you’ll end up in the small town of Lashio.
Visited February 2017
Little Amy Tours @littleamytours