This was my itin from Yangon to Inle Lake:
1 – 17:00 train in sleeper car to Thazi, arr 4:55 (12hrs; K12,500/$12) actual arrival 1hr late (it’s a stop on the way to Mandalay)
2 – 7:00 slow scenic train to Shwengyaung, arr 17:00 (10hrs; K3,000/$3)
3 – taxi to Ngayng Shwe, the town in the northeast corner of the lake (15km, K10,000/$10, split with the other couple on the train). Yes, that is the previous town name transposed word-wise, like Tokyo and Kyoto, except in Japan those cities are hours apart.
Small gash in floor through which you can see the ground, check.
Spiders on the ceiling, inc one over my bunk, check (they were mostly in the hallway).
Amazingly rickety, check. the writeups weren’t kidding and perhaps even underdescribed it. At first, moving slowly through the burbs of Yangon, it rocked either side to side like a ship, or up and down like riding a horse. Forget about reading or writing (but ‘rithmetic OK). Which meant we basically laid down to sleep by 18:30…
Except I was often woken up during the night by the violent rocking and bouncing, sometimes literally tossing me 1-2″ above the bed.
Sleeper compartment has 4 bunks, I had a top one which is less desirable, esp when getting off at an intermediate stop in the middle of the night (you can’t look out the window). Plus I didn’t have a station list, nor did I know if we were running late or not… so I ended up getting up just before scheduled arrival time (around 4:30, not as hard as it sounds given the early bedtime), and kept asking locals (in the non-sleeper car) which station it was, as I couldn’t always see the sign (at one little station, the master shone a flashlight onto the name sign).
Several people said my stop was next, though it was actually several stops later. I ended up standing in the hallway for an hour…
You get a pillow with case, and a sheet, but that’s it (the conductor gave them a quick spritz of something, either freshener of bug spray. Hopefully the former, as I don’t care for bug spray on my face).
It was an experience, to say the least. No wonder the night bus is more popular…
Oh, the toilets were pretty clean (one squat, one western) since they were hard to use due to the rocking, and I don’t think people from lower class cars snuck into my car. Thank goodness for Immodium!
However, train #2 made up for it…