Myanmar (Burma) Trains

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Deni

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Going to be going to Myanmar (Burma) this summer with the family (Me, wife, 7-year-old daughter).

Anyone have any experience with the trains there? I know Burma's trains are notoriously unreliable but guidebooks, online forums, and Seat61.com seem to suggest that the overnight Yangon-Mandalay train is pretty reliable and runs closer to on time than other trains.

Want to hear from anyone who may have taken it. Looking for what kind of sleeper you got, how you bought tickets (supposedly they only go on sale three days in advance), and the overall experience.

When we took the overnight train in Vietnam a couple of years ago employees kept trying to scam more money out of us by asking if we wanted to "buy" the 4th berth in our compartment so that we would not have anyone else join us. When they finally got an offer for a good price we eventually did, and really only because Vietnam has pretty much no rules against smoking anywhere and I'd heard from other travelers that they'd get a couple of people who would sit there in the compartment puffing away.

So also wondering if that kind of thing also happens in Myanmar. (And if people smoke on the train)
 

caravanman

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Hi,

My experience with this train was over 30 years ago, and much will have changed, no doubt...

Seat 61 is pretty reliable with info, so I would tend to follow his advice.

Our train from Rangoon to Mandalay was a day train, so we had no sleeper experience.

If you try youtube, you may find a video which will give an idea of conditions on the trains.

Burmese people were far less pushy than those in India. Smoking was common at that time... even women smoked

quite large "cheroots".

Cheers,

Ed. :cool:
 

Devil's Advocate

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Going to be going to Myanmar (Burma) this summer with the family (Me, wife, 7-year-old daughter). Anyone have any experience with the trains there? I know Burma's trains are notoriously unreliable but guidebooks, online forums, and Seat61.com seem to suggest that the overnight Yangon-Mandalay train is pretty reliable and runs closer to on time than other trains. Want to hear from anyone who may have taken it. Looking for what kind of sleeper you got, how you bought tickets (supposedly they only go on sale three days in advance), and the overall experience.
Personally I always thought of Myanmar as the sort of place where half of the appeal is that nobody you know has ever been there before. In other words it's a place to find your own path, to sniff out a good story firsthand, and to contemplate the social and political upheaval currently underway. It's not the sort of trip I'd expect to have detailed walkthroughs with updated information on the booking process, schedule keeping, and social habits of domestic travelers. If thinking on your feet, making your own way, and ironing out your own complications isn't the sort of trip you're looking for then maybe you should talk with a tour group operator.

When we took the overnight train in Vietnam a couple of years ago employees kept trying to scam more money out of us by asking if we wanted to "buy" the 4th berth in our compartment so that we would not have anyone else join us. When they finally got an offer for a good price we eventually did, and really only because Vietnam has pretty much no rules against smoking anywhere and I'd heard from other travelers that they'd get a couple of people who would sit there in the compartment puffing away.
Wait, so which part was the "scam" again? The part where you willingly purchased another ticket to further protect your now private compartment? If it makes you feel any better people of Myanmar are extremely poor. So even if you think you're being "scammed" you can rest easy knowing they'll still be struggling with basic subsistence long after you left. I'll never understand the mindset of people who willingly travel to a very poor country and then complain about being scammed. How much was the "scam" worth in your own money and what important good or service did it prevent you from purchasing when you got home?
 
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Deni

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*Sigh* You feel better now?

This is why I've stayed off internet message boards for so long. For every helpful person who will answer a question (and this board has usually been helpful) there are 10 guys who feel the need to act like douche-bags even in the most benign of topics. I don't remember asking your opinion about how I travel, and you make some wildly inaccurate assumptions about a person you do not know.

As for the scam in Vietnam, just because I didn't go in to a bunch of details about the situation you assume your own details. In that situation it was being handled in a very intimidating way, and it was done by people with keys to our compartment. There are even more details but suffice to say we were pressed to pay a bribe for something we weren't even looking for, that I at least waited until the price was reasonable to do it. Not the first bribe I've had to pay in my travels, likely not the last. And I in no way intimated that I was upset about the money lost. But it was something of a touchy situation and my (at the time) 5-year-old daughter was getting upset and feeling vulnerable.

And for your assumptions about how I like to travel, or how you think people in general SHOULD travel. I asked one freaking question about one little thing about a trip that I've already planned, and you take me for some sort of tour bus traveler. I've been traveling internationally for about 25 years, much of it with a backpack, almost all of it in lower-end hotels/guest houses/hostels. I've been to every continent multiple times except for Antarctica and used pretty much every land and water transport to get around them, many times not knowing how I was going to get from one place to another until the day I needed to do it. I've been on local vans shared with live chickens, local trains with dubious equipment also with chickens and passengers with their own hammocks strung up to sleep in. This upcoming trip will be countries #16 and #17 for my 7-year-old since she was two, over three continents outside of North America. She hiked through a jungle and kayaked on a river in Laos when she was 5, among other things. We still have lovely local people we've met in SE Asia we keep in touch with and send gifts on holidays. So I don't really need a lecture on the poverty level in some countries since I've seen it up close and personal (in countries with complicated political and social situations), and have been involved in things to try to do my small part to help.

So I put my international travel chops and experience up against anyone, especially when it comes to thinking on my feet, making my own way, and sorting things out, as you say. And sure, traveling with my kid has made me take pause in some things (based on experience) to make sure I'm keeping her safe, healthy, and not doing anything that will sour travel for her (since that would be against the point of why we do this).

Again, I asked one little question (since yes, one cool thing about going there is I know no one else who has gone, and I know no one on this board) about one little opinion about a train experience to get a little bit of insight due to having to decide one small aspect of our trip. I've not asked for anyone to hold my hand for anything, I've planned dozens of trips for myself over the years.

But obviously you've got nothing to add, instead just want to be a dick to people for your entertainment, I guess. If that's what makes you happy...
 

Deni

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Hi,

My experience with this train was over 30 years ago, and much will have changed, no doubt...

Seat 61 is pretty reliable with info, so I would tend to follow his advice.

Our train from Rangoon to Mandalay was a day train, so we had no sleeper experience.

If you try youtube, you may find a video which will give an idea of conditions on the trains.

Burmese people were far less pushy than those in India. Smoking was common at that time... even women smoked

quite large "cheroots".

Cheers,

Ed. :cool:
Over 30 years ago, might still be the same equipment from what I hear. :)
 

Bob Dylan

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Your daughter is lucky to have you for a parent!

Traveling the world is a great life expierence and getting started while young is the best way to go!

Your travels sound fascinating, hopefully you'll share some with us, lots of us have had similar expierences! (I can really relate to the Chicken Buses and Trains and have traveled with my daughter Internationaly since she was two!))
 
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Devil's Advocate

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*Sigh* You feel better now?
Do you?

I can only presume this post was intended to make me feel bad, but I happen to have a thick skin and by the time I reached the end of your emotional manifesto I felt worse for your daughter than I did for myself. You can call me names if it provides you with a cathartic experience or just makes you feel better, but keep in mind that I've played no role in scaring your daughter or possibly putting her safety at risk to save a buck while living out my dreams. Your border bragging looks impressive until you realize that you have your roles seriously mixed up. You haven't been competing with fellow travelers for at least seven years now. You've been competing with fellow parents, many of whom realize that there's a vast middle ground between Disneyland and Myanmar.
 
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Deni

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I feel ashamed of the moronic rants that some members go on... I apologise to the O.P. for the attitude above... Most of us try to help, some just attend to trash everyone else...

A couple of Myanmar train videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsVTKPRurEE

The Night Train to Mandalay !

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1sVcRwU9yY

Ed. :cool:
Yeah, some people feel that life is a competition (as is travel and parenting travel apparently) and that post counts mean something.

Cool videos, still pondering what to do. Hate to miss out on a train trip in a country, but there are a lot of mixed opinions about Myanmar's trains. Then again, the safety record of Myanmar's domestic airlines is a little less than great. It's the only part of our time in Myanmar that we want to go such a long distance in one shot, the rest of it will be making our way from place to place shorter distances apart so not much to worry about, can figure it out as we go. Hoping to take a local ferry from Mandalay to Bagan as well.
 

Deni

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Your daughter is lucky to have you for a parent!

Traveling the world is a great life expierence and getting started while young is the best way to go!

Your travels sound fascinating, hopefully you'll share some with us, lots of us have had similar expierences! (I can really relate to the Chicken Buses and Trains and have traveled with my daughter Internationaly since she was two!))
No doubt! I think it's cool how having a kid with you also makes you see and do things that you may not have otherwise because it was something the kid saw or wanted to do. We always packed so much in to our trips before and the kid forced us to slow down a little, and I think we experience more that way. Or at least experience different things.
 

NW cannonball

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Your daughter is lucky to have you for a parent!

Traveling the world is a great life expierence and getting started while young is the best way to go!

Your travels sound fascinating, hopefully you'll share some with us, lots of us have had similar expierences! (I can really relate to the Chicken Buses and Trains and have traveled with my daughter Internationaly since she was two!))
No doubt! I think it's cool how having a kid with you also makes you see and do things that you may not have otherwise because it was something the kid saw or wanted to do. We always packed so much in to our trips before and the kid forced us to slow down a little, and I think we experience more that way. Or at least experience different things.
About traveling with a young'un - yes, way to go.

About Myanmar (Burma) no idea, never been there. But Seat61.com reports on rail service there - seem fairly reliable last few years and Latest Burma reports at seat61 seem good for ancient equipment and not being more than a few hours late, and safe enough.

Me, looking at solo visit India within a year, looked at Burma info, there's pricey tourist places, there's ancient trains that still work fairly well - what I got by web search.

Only reason I'm not considering extending India trip to Burma is the resistant malaria in parts of Myanmar, and limited budget :)

Go for it

My kids didn't get to travel to other countries, only from Hicktown USA to Seattle and Chicago and NYC and DC. On Amtrak, mostly. I think even that did them good :)

Now,they settle down in USA. But - even that limited travel, limited experience of other languages and other cultures, even at 4 years old, led to --

For one of my kids, a year in Ecuador. Another -- ports of call in Singapore, Thailand, - and too many short visits to the Sandbox in Jebel Ali and Bahrain.

And a few weeks in Japan.

Any way you can let your kids know there's a whole world out there, and that it's mostly safe, good.
 
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ScouseAndy

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When we took the overnight train in Vietnam a couple of years ago employees kept trying to scam more money out of us by asking if we wanted to "buy" the 4th berth in our compartment so that we would not have anyone else join us. When they finally got an offer for a good price we eventually did, and really only because Vietnam has pretty much no rules against smoking anywhere and I'd heard from other travelers that they'd get a couple of people who would sit there in the compartment puffing away.

So also wondering if that kind of thing also happens in Myanmar. (And if people smoke on the train)
Not a scam at all, it is common practice all over the world that railway companies and staff offer to sell passengers all the berths in a compartment so that you can have privacy. Happens in the UK on the sleeper trains (we call it 1st class and standard class rather than "private" and "shared") and all over Europe and Asia. In fact I could argue that it is Amtrak who is "scamming" people by insisting that as a single passenger wanting a sleeper berth that I have to buy the full compartment, of course it isn't a scam but a cultural difference. If you can't handle these differences then perhaps you shouldn't travel outside your own country??
 

Deni

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When we took the overnight train in Vietnam a couple of years ago employees kept trying to scam more money out of us by asking if we wanted to "buy" the 4th berth in our compartment so that we would not have anyone else join us. When they finally got an offer for a good price we eventually did, and really only because Vietnam has pretty much no rules against smoking anywhere and I'd heard from other travelers that they'd get a couple of people who would sit there in the compartment puffing away.

So also wondering if that kind of thing also happens in Myanmar. (And if people smoke on the train)
Not a scam at all, it is common practice all over the world that railway companies and staff offer to sell passengers all the berths in a compartment so that you can have privacy. Happens in the UK on the sleeper trains (we call it 1st class and standard class rather than "private" and "shared") and all over Europe and Asia. In fact I could argue that it is Amtrak who is "scamming" people by insisting that as a single passenger wanting a sleeper berth that I have to buy the full compartment, of course it isn't a scam but a cultural difference. If you can't handle these differences then perhaps you shouldn't travel outside your own country??
You misunderstand the situation, much like the previous critic. We did not plan to buy the berth and I have traveled on trains on almost every continent, and I agree with the criticism of Amtrak's roomettes, though that is an irrelevant point in this discussion. We were pressed to buy the extra berth in a forceful and intimidating manner and everyone offered us a different price for it. I guess you had to be there to understand.

Ask a simple question and posters on this board seem to take that as an invitation to be douchebags and question others' worldliness. If you've nothing to add to the discussion why comment?
 

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Ask a simple question and posters on this board seem to take that as an invitation to be douchebags and question others' worldliness.
What is it with you and name calling? You can't claim the moral high ground while calling other people dicks and douchebags. You came here asking Amtrak experts detailed questions about Burmese trains, god only knows why, and you didn't appreciate the reaction. I'm sorry this thread didn't turn into the fawning reception and ring kissing ceremony you apparently expected, but that's not our problem. This isn't a travel blog or curated discussion. It's an open forum where anyone can respond to any question or comment regardless of their position or knowledge level. Just because you started a thread doesn't mean you own who can participate or what they can say. Not sure how you missed that on the way in but hopefully I've clarified it for you.
 

Bob Dylan

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I agree that the name calling is uncalled for but you do have a point about those that try to give parenting and lifestyle advice on a Train Forum!

Time to move on, Happy Rails to you!
 

ScouseAndy

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Who has been name calling? I certainly didn't, I explained that it is merely a cultural difference between the USA and South East Asia, I wasn't there so I have no idea the level of intimidation, but you will get a variety of different prices for the same product or service all over the world, this is why you have Amsnag ;)

Ive been on trains where I have literally had to bribe my way on them (on one occasion I was actually hidden in the dead cab by the conductor) and theres been times when Ive attempted to barter with railway staff in order to bag a bed on a sleeper knowing full well they were playing me off against someone who already had a berth in a compartment to see how would pay more for the spare berth, me wanting to share and them wanting their privacy. The higher bidder will always win but ultimately the train staff are the real winner and this sort of thing supplements their low wage.
 

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I explained that it is merely a cultural difference between the USA and South East Asia, I wasn't there so I have no idea the level of intimidation, but you will get a variety of different prices for the same product or service all over the world, this is why you have Amsnag.
Now that I think about it the Amtrak staff in Chicago have probably acted more intimidating toward me than anything I've seen in Southeast Asia. The first time I was threatened with being thrown in jail for taking photos of passenger trains was a bit of a shock. Now I know that it's simply part of Chicago's safety minded charm offensive. Or maybe it's part of their offensive charm?

I've been on trains where I have literally had to bribe my way on them (on one occasion I was actually hidden in the dead cab by the conductor) and theres been times when Ive attempted to barter with railway staff in order to bag a bed on a sleeper knowing full well they were playing me off against someone who already had a berth in a compartment to see how would pay more for the spare berth, me wanting to share and them wanting their privacy. The higher bidder will always win but ultimately the train staff are the real winner and this sort of thing supplements their low wage.
Shoot, I'd happily pay extra for a ride in the cab. How and where did you manage that?
 

ScouseAndy

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It was on a the circum Baikal railway, we literally had to hide under blankets whilst stopped Kultuk on the way back up to Irkutsk.

We had got a bus to Lisvianka on the on North side of the river to the Village of Baikal and had to walk 2miles across the lake to get the train only to find it was sold out due a coach trip so had a quiet word with the Engineer and after a few roubles had changed hands 5 of us got to ride in the rear facing cab for a full day journey back to Irkutks

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circum-Baikal_Railway
 

Deni

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It was on a the circum Baikal railway, we literally had to hide under blankets whilst stopped Kultuk on the way back up to Irkutsk.

We had got a bus to Lisvianka on the on North side of the river to the Village of Baikal and had to walk 2miles across the lake to get the train only to find it was sold out due a coach trip so had a quiet word with the Engineer and after a few roubles had changed hands 5 of us got to ride in the rear facing cab for a full day journey back to Irkutks

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circum-Baikal_Railway
That's cool! I've been wanting to ride on that one someday.
 
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