Our overnight bus to Pyinoolwin arrived at 0600 and we rather helpfully got dropped outside the train station. Cakes were produced from both our bags and a nearby Frenchman and (awful) coffee/tea mix (“chai latte”) was provided by the station cafe. The ticket office (upper class tickets 2,750K; ordinary class 1,200K) opened half an hour before the train arrived, which was dead on time, and the goods carriages were uncoupled after their slog up the hill from Mandalay, and more passenger carriages were added – primarily to cater for the gaggle of French tourists who were clearly here to do exactly the same thing as us!After 4 hours of bumping along at a crawl through stunning scenery and lush farmland, with people of all ages working the crops of sugar cane, rice and fields of pale blue flowers, we arrived at the viaduct. The train paused briefly, perhaps to allow the driver time to collect himself, before inching onto the bridge. The views were staggering, and the drop down took your breath away – particularly after Coby discovered that you could just open the door for a better view…!
Through the tunnel into the rock face on the other side, then slowly onward towards Hsipaw (pronounced See-paw). We stopped frequently at stations, first to let off the majority of tourists who had just come for the viaduct and were returning to either Pyinoolwin or Mandalay, and then to allow women on the platforms to sell noodles, drinks and rice based snacks through the open windows.