It was time to take our first train ride in Burma. Even buying the ticket was an example of the amazing hospitality we were to experience throughout Myanmar, after queuing at the ticket window, we were ushered round the back into the office and each given a chair to sit on whilst we filled out the necessary paperwork for a "foreigner ticket".
We had read that trains were often delayed, but we left Mawlaymine promptly and set off out into the countryside. Being on the train itself was an experience, as due to the narrow gauge track the train ricocheted from side to side, then bounced up and down with increasing ferocity. At times it was hard to even stay in your seat, we knew from our friends that the trains do derail, leading to hours of delays whilst it was hoisted back on. On we went, willing the train to stay on the train tracks as the hours went by through rice paddies, small villages right up to the track, animals in stilted enclosures out of the flood waters. As the windows were completely open, the breeze came in and you could smell everything as you went past.
At lunch time the variety of food sellers climbing on board the train and walking through the carriages increased, we selected a lunch pack of chicken curry and rice wrapped up in a banana leaf with spicy chilli and onion salad on the side. Such a delicious lunch and really communal as everyone on the train ate their food at the same time. Though how the ladies with the huge trays of stacked up fried snacks in their heads, managed not to drop any as they moved from carriage to carriage will always remain a mystery!
We had read it was going to take about six hours, but when we checked with our fellow passengers if our stop was coming up, we learned we still had another three rickety hours to go. We both love travelling by train, but realised that nine hours like this was probably our limit and decided there and then not to take the longer overnight sleeper option in the future!
Arriving later than planned in Bago, we settled to watch the sunset from our rooftop, planning to see the temples, some of which were now visible illuminated in the night sky, the following morning.
Whilst Tim tucked into samosas and other fried bread type delights, Bee found fish curry and rice for breakfast round the corner. Refuelled and ready to start the tour of the temples, we wrestled Tim's head into the tiny helmet, and hopped on the back of our motorbike taxis and zoomed off down the road.
The main highlights from Bago's many temples was the huge Kyaik Pun Paya built in 1476 with four seated Buddhas (30m high) sat back to back round a pillar and other reclining Buddha at Shwe Tha Laung. This Buddha although not as big as the one seen previously still managed to impress with it's jewelled adorned feet and colourful surroundings.
Having had our fill of Buddha's for the day we hopped on a bus into Yangon, our first major city of Myanmar.