Enthusiast, Culture

British Built Lines in Burma

9 to 25 November
Burma

The railways of Burma (more correctly Myanmar) are fascinating for the railway enthusiast with many trains diesel hauled on a metre gauge system initially built by the British, and with many British influences still present. The emphasis is on travelling interesting and ‘difficult to do’ railways, including the awesome Gokteik viaduct, the zig zag railways which ascend the steep mountain slopes and some pretty impressive bridges.  Culture will not be forgotten and few must see sights will be included to give a break from train travel. Overall Burma is one of the safest countries for tourists in Asia. From the train you will see many pagodas, colourful tribespeople, maroon clad monks and waving children. New modern diesels have recently been purchased from China and India and the older loco classes will surely have a limited life. Burma is changing – now is the time to go.

This is a provisional itinerary which we will adapt in consultation with our Burmese partners and the Railways.

Highlights
  • Unspoilt country
  • Private Charter train
  • Stunning scenery and welcoming people
  • Unusual lines
  • All meals included

Tour Manager: Paul Griffin. Feel free to contact Paul with any questions you have at paulg@ptg.co.uk 

Itinerary

Friday 9 September Flights from London to Yangon usually via Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

Saturday 10 November (D) Arrivals on group flights will be met at the airport and taken by coach to our city centre hotel. After freshening up there will be a late afternoon visit to the amazing Schwedagon Pagoda, the most visited sight in the country, and deservedly so. Those who wish to can take a few rides on the Yangon Circular Railway instead.

Sunday 11 November (B,L,D) Today we will make a circuit of the Yangon Circular Railway on one of the loco hauled trains which call all stations, a journey recommended by Lonely Planet. Vendors walk up and down the train and children leap on the steps to have a free ride. We now have a positional move to get us to Mawlamyine, and this entails a lengthy ride on our coach. Our hotel is on the banks of the Thanlwin river offering views of the Thanlwin river bridge which we will cross tomorrow.

Monday 12 November (B,L,D) Our first charter train starts at Mawlamyine South Station which was the original starting point of the southern railway before the new bridge and connecting line were built. Depot visit before continuing via the impressive new Mawlamyine station over the Thanlwin river bridge. At Thahton we reverse to take the freight line to the Rhino cement works. Our coach will be waiting at Kyaiktyo to take us to the new cable car station where we board for an exciting journey up the mountain to visit the pilgrimage site of Golden Rock. This giant boulder hangs precariously over a ledge and is painted with gold leaf. Night at a hotel either on the mountain, or in Kyaiktyo town.

Tuesday 13 November (B,L,D) Today we have another major river crossing at the Sittaung river. Soon after this we diverge onto a 36 km link line which allows trains to avoid Bago and is taken daily by only one train pair. North now up the main line to Nyauang Lay Pin where we take the branch line to Madauk, located on the banks of the Sittaung river.  Our coach will be waiting for the journey to our hotel in Bago –  the nearest city with enough hotel accommodation for the group.

Wednesday 14 November (B,L,D) Our journey takes us north from Bago up the main line to Mandalay. Having our own charter train gives us the opportunity to stop briefly at the station of Naypyidaw, the capital of the country and site of two plinthed steam engines. At the junction station of Thazi we will change locos, visit the busy depot if we have time, and then proceed on the line to Bagan as far as Meiktila where we will spend the night.  Nearby is artificial Lake Meiktila where there is a Karaweik (a mythical golden bird) built as a permanently moored barge on the lake.

Thursday 15 November (B,L,D) We will enjoy one of the finest railway journeys in Burma today. First we return to Thazi and change to a Chinese built 2000 horsepower locomotive before setting off for Schwenyaung, heading for the distant Shan plateau. After Zit Zat Reverse A station there are a series of switchbacks after which the climb continues to the highest point of the line at over 4000 feet before heading to the hill station of Kalaw. East now through Aung Ban to descend a spiral into the Inle lake basin and reach Schwenyaung station. Night in Nyaungshwe on the northern margin of Lake Inle.

Friday 16 November (B,L,D) The branch north of Schwenyaung goes to Yaksauk (also called Lawksawk), and a return day trip is perfectly possible.  The route is fairly level through a patchwork of fields until just before Yaksauk when a low forested ridge has to be crossed. An early start will mean we can enjoy a late afternoon cruise by motor boat on beautiful Lake Inle. Local fishermen have a unique rowing action using one leg twined around the oar, and cast nets to catch the many fish in the shallow lake. 

Saturday 17 November (B,L,D) East of Schwenyaung is the modern regional capital of Taunggyi from where a freight only railway runs south then east to Mong Nai and beyond.  Poor construction means slow line speeds, and there is no way our train can get all the way to Mong Nai and back in a day, so we will go south for 50 km through tribal territory to Kakku where we will stop for the short walk to the amazing Kakku stupas – all 2478 of them crammed into a small area. Further south, before the line turns east to tackle a range of hills, we come to Loisawn where our waiting coach will take us south to the city of Loikaw. Sunset view from the hilltop Taung Kwe Pagoda.

Sunday 18 November (B,L,D) A very early start as we must be on the local passenger train for the journey north to Aung Ban. We will travel Upper Class. After Pekon we get glimpses of a large artificial lake before striking over a range of low hills away from the road to reach Pinlaung in a parallel, heavily farmed valley, which we follow north until we start the ascent to Aung Ban where we will stay the night.

Monday 19 November (B,L,D) A day without trains as we get into position for the railways of the Northern Shan plateau. This means a drive to the airport at Heho and a flight to the city of Lashio, near the Chinese border. Lashio is not on the tourist trail, being a mainly modern city. There is a nice temple with good views of the area, and curiously there is a road into it, making it a drive-in temple. In the evening we may go into the nearby park where food and drink is available in a vast barn like structure.  

Tuesday 20 November (B,L,D) After leaving Lashio we pass some sizeable waterfalls and late in the morning we arrive at Hsipaw, centre for tribal trekking holidays.  Next is the descent by huge loops to the awesome 102 metre-high Gokteik viaduct, a tour highlight by anybody’s standards. When completed it was the largest railway trestle in the world. We continue in the late afternoon to the former British hill station of Maymo, now called Pyin Oo Lwin, and stay in the characterful Royal Parkview Hotel.

Wednesday 21 November (B,L,D) It would be a shame not to have a look at Pyin Oo Lwin, so we have a horse and buggy ride to look at the old colonial buildings before returning to the railway station for the  journey to Mandalay, the highlight of which is the descent of the Shan  plateau by a series of switchbacks. Once at the bottom we head directly for Mandalay, where we have a hotel close to the station. Before dusk we will go by pick-up trucks up Mandalay Hill to watch the sunset from the terrace of the pagoda. Night in Mandalay.

Thursday 22 November (B,L,D) Mandalay is the second city of Burma, sited on the east bank of the mighty Irrawaddy River. First we visit Mandalay depot. Mandalay used to have a circular railway, but north of the station this is severed, so to get to the northern branch line terminus of Madaya we have a circuitous journey around the city. When we return to Mandalay our coach will be waiting to take us to the amazingly photogenic riverside for a cruise up the Irrawaddy to Mingun, a major tourist attraction with an enormous stupa, the world’s largest uncracked bell and a wedding cake-like white pagoda. Another night in Mandalay.  

Friday 23 November (B,L,D) Today we make a big circular day trip from Mandalay, crossing the Irrawaddy by the Ava River Bridge, a 1000 yard-long, 16 span cantilever bridge built by the British in 1934. We pass through the moated town of Schwebo, to reach Khin-U where we reverse and head east, crossing a tributary of the Irrawaddy by a 600 metre-long road rail bridge before Ye-U. Before Monywar we run parallel with the Chindwin river and head for the junction station of Chaung-U from where we head back to Mandalay for our final night in this wonderful city.

Saturday 24 November (B,L,D) The day starts with a flight from Mandalay to Yangon where we will have a charter train waiting to travel some of the lines in Yangon itself. Much will depend on flight times, but we aim to use a DD500 shunting locomotive to visit the docks branch, Yangon depot, and maybe some of the southern branch lines. There will be a farewell meal in a nearby restaurant at the end of what we hope will have been a memorable journey, for all the right reasons.  

Sunday 25 November (B) Flights back to UK airports, usually via Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur

Flights
  • Thai Airways from London via Bangkok
  • Options from other UK airports available
  • Flight upgrades available on request
Place(s) available
Holiday prices per person
  • Full 17 day holiday including flight from London: £3,999
  • Joining in Yangon (own air travel): £3,299

Options

  • Single room Supplement: £470

Deposit

  • £1,500
Your holiday price includes
  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted.
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