By train to the south of Myanmar - a leisurely trip
The morning still is astonishingly chilly on the platform in Mawlamyaing, dozing wild dogs lie on on the trackbed, closely circled, protecting against the early morning freshness. Sleeping travellers lie on the wooden benches under coloured covers. Other sleepers spend the night directly on the grey concrete ground in the railway station vestibule. The light wind mixes the smell of tar of the ties with the steams of an open cookshop on the platform. The pointer of the station clock immediately jumps on four o'clock. Yet two hours until the train from Yangon to arrive regularly.
The day before I have decided to spend after a stay of several weeks in a Buddhist monastery close to Mawlamyaing my remaining time in Myanmar in the south of the country. I want to drive on the first distance to Ye, a small town to river of the same name, train . In the evening before I have tried to procure a ticket, this does not go in Myanmar, because there is no computer system or similar, hence, one must appear early before departure in the ticket counter in the railway station, so that one certainly receives a ticket. And early is called, three hours before departure, so in my case at three o'clock in the morning. After my maonastery time I was used to the early rising and then I buy in the counter, in which already a longer queue stands, my 1st first-class ticket. For incredible 2600 Kyat, converted 1. 70 euros, receives the ticket for 160 kilometres of distance. The luxury I allow myself, because one must sit, otherwise, in the wooden class really on wooden benches and probably eight hours. For a Burmese is a lot of money if one holds the monthly average wage of a teacher by chance 80 euros against it.
One hour before the arrival of the train the life on the platform slowly begins. More and more sellers with their small mobile food stall, mostly everything on the head balanced, arrive. Fruit and drink sellers join to them. Small coloured plastic chairs, dishes, small gas ranges and foods with hands and head are juggled with astonishing talent through the crowd, and as soon as a customer require a little bit, the seat opportunity is placed and then the women prepare the small snacks with a lot of talent. There are many different treats for few Kyat. Some passengers wash their face at a tap on the platform. The coloured covers are rolled up, time for the first breakfast.
About six o'clock the train with the first distant whistles announces itself, then unexpectedly on time he drives swinging and creaky in the rail. Then the old British diesel locomotive brings the black blue-yellow carriages with screaming brakes to the standing position. From the dark carriages sleepy heads stretch themselves and observe the activity on the platform. I find my seat quick, everything well numbered serially in the comfort class carriage. On the upholstered seats and in the head part there are even white fabric covers. Now at the open window, which does not close itself anyway, I can observe nearly 1 hour the events in the railway station and in the compartment.
When the train starts moving about seven o'clock, it is still dark. Creaky and fluctuating, like a ship with heavy swell, we leave the railway station. The few lights of the town disappear with the climbing up fog above the rice fields. Relatively fast we have reached our maximum speed, it is felt rather step speed. The ailing trackage in Myanmar leaves no other speed. The carriages sway at times so questionably that one gets fear that they could jump out of the rails. Railway system and trains still come from the colonial age of the Britons, then the following governments and the military junta did not deserve for their rail. Only a few years ago the expansion began - for example the extension of the section after Ye, southward.
So the train creeps bit by bit against the sunrise, in the step tempo small villages and agrarian sceneries pass and thanks to the comfort seats one can endure the sometimes hard pushes and moves well. Some bamboo hut villages lie directly with the ballast and one can observe the early morning activity in her courts and the smoke of the small fireplaces moves in the open carriages. From small cloisters monks set out to the everyday alms collecting. Waiting women, with food for the monks, have already positioned themselves in the dusty ways. In the paled light of the daybreak one can recognise the smoke from the numerous clay brick distilleries along the distance, here it is already worked.
On wobbly rail
Women with Thanaka paste in the face run by the swinging carriages, with hot or cold drinks, Instant coffee or tea bag tea, lemonades or juices. Others offer warm curries or paste parcels with dips. To whom this does not reach, can help himself from a huge number of offers in the railway stations in which is stopped. Numerous women, with a tablet on the head, with all conceivable lusciousness, run along the open windows. Then travellers are served directly by the platform at the open window. Some of them mount during the stay also the train and then try to get rid of her goods in the train. A few go even up to the next railway station. The play recurs in every railway station.
With one of the stops in the provincial town of Thanbyuzayat an older woman with flower in the hair gets in, on the platform six or more baskets pile up, the farmer woman starts to tow her product in the way between two carriages in peace of mind. I help to her to load in the baskets and see that every of it is filled up to the poster with eggs. In broken English she tries to explain to me, that has to go on the market in one of the next places. Some of the travellers are small farmers who shuttle just between the local markets. As the train drives off she plops in one of the 1st first-class armchairs and stays down as long as the conductor appears. Smilingly she moves to her eggs and returns when the conductor has disappeared.
In the meantime, the midday heat has expelled the initial coolness, only by the journey wind of the open windows the climate is pleasant in the carriages, even if every now and then insects, undergrowth or sheets of the densely covered road route fly in the carriages. In steady metallic squeaking of a carriage wheel one develops with the hours a feeling for the driven speed, while crossing of bridges it is long-pulled squeaking, on free distance the tact increases and interferes with the Rat-ta-tang - Rat-ta-tang of the rail pieces.
Even if from time to time luggage pieces from the upper filing are catapulted, in the meantime, I have got used to the rocking, indeed, not with the way to the toilet. The adventure begins with the entrance of the toilet area, with open door one sees that everything is underwater, one closes the door one stands in the darkness and in a disagreeable smell, only the light from the hole of the WC bowl by which the ties are to be seen, helps a little in the orientation. Dangerously it is prevented by the strong swings of the carriages, no hold, no clutch, only one supporting on one of the walls that one bangs against the metal walls. To drink not too much maybe helpfully or venture the way to toilet in a railway station.
Despite smoking ban repeatedly passengers place at the outlet of the open car doors, cozy puff with slowly passing scenery their cigarettes, sometimes waving to the children in the villages. In the wooden class with the worn wooden benches the travellers sit close packed, but, nevertheless, a smile on the face, talk, sleep, eat or play with her children. Golden beaming pagodas, richly decorated Buddhist cloisters, green jungles, monotonous India rubber plantations, watered and harvested rice fields, small village parties and music scraps, thick water buffaloes in the mud, white and coloured water birds in rivers and lakes, smells and noises in the villages, desolate railway stations, everything also passes in the snail tempo, as a lot of time.
The aim of this train is the small city of Dawei, a port in the southern Myanmar in the mouth of the river with the same name and the capital of the Tanintharyi region. Here also ends the southern railway system. This train is begun in Yangon, for the distance to Dawei the trip will last about 24 swinging hours, for an about 600-km-long distance, in the western world rather inconceivably, but for Burmese quite a usual process. Even the businessmen who do not have the money for a flight ticket move by train through the country. Beside coaches and collective taxis this is the most favorable kind to travel through Myanmar.
My aim Ye lies on half a distance between Mawlamyaing and Dawei. Then about four o'clock in the afternoon the train shuffles in in the small town after the nine-hour journey. An intensive experience of the slowing down and attention, a lot of time for the small things, fragile and amusing talks with people, passing mountains and sceneries look, railway stations examine and infinity relaxation.
On the scurry, small railway station of Ye I looking for a taxi after the leaving of my train. I have a lot of time.(Automatic translation by Transposh)
The railway line from Mawlamyine to Ye