Monday, April 22, 2013

Some Like It Hot

Thus far my experiences with trains in SE Asia have been pretty good. I took two night trains in Vietnam, one in third class (not super comfortable but a hilarious night nonetheless) and one in first class, which got me a bed with air conditioning. In Thailand, I opted for third class again which was just a seat, but there were fans. In both countries the trains traveled at pretty decent speeds and weren’t too bumpy.

Then I took a train in Burma. 

My "upper class" ticket (the highest class available) got me a seat in a car that looked like this:

The floors were filthy (I actually saw a guy spit like it was the most normal thing in the world) and the seats were falling apart but I could live with that. What I almost couldn’t live with (literally, at times I thought I was going to keel over) was that there was no air con, the ceiling fans were broken and it had to be pushing 40 degrees that day. Coming from Vancouver where it hits 30 degrees maybe two days a year if we’re lucky, the breeze from the windows just wasn’t cutting it for me. Especially considering the train was probably only moving about 50 km/hour at the best of times. When it made stops and there was no breeze at all, I got so hot I had to actively tell myself not to panic. I don’t want to sound overdramatic, but for me it was borderline unbearable.

Not only was the train stifling hot, it was one bumpy ride. You know when you're on a roller coaster and there's that moment when you're lifted out of your seat, held down only by the safety bar? Well at times the train was like that, minus the safety bar. It made using the train's squat toilet a real treat, let me tell you.

Aside from the maddening heat and almost falling out of my seat, the train ride was a wonderful cultural experience. I ate some local train snacks...

Made some new friends...

Took in some of Burma’s beautiful countryside (kids would run out from their houses excitedly towards the train, as if its passing was the highlight of their day, and every time we passed a pagoda the train passengers would place their hands together and bow their heads in a brief prayer)...

And I got to see the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen in a while.

The most uncomfortable train journey to date? Yep. Worth it? Absolutely.  


Anonymous said...

hi Alex, What an adventure! Fred and I love travelling on trains. Would you recommend this one?!!

I'm really enjoying all your beautiful photos. Take care.


Wondering and Wandering said...

Hey Lesley! Wouldn't recommend it in April, hottest time of the year, but in other months it probably wouldn't be so bad. Glad you're enjoying the photos... hope you all are well!