Experiencing The Gohteik Viaduct By Train
I’m no stranger to Pyin Oo Lwin, in fact I must have visited the Flower City – named so for its spectacular botanical gardens and flower festival – about six times.
However, this time around I wasn’t going to look at pretty plants, I was off to see the stunning Gokteik Viaduct, the second-highest viaduct in the world, built by an American Company in 1901.
Unless you aren’t a fan of heights, the best way to experience the viaduct is by train.
I bought a first class ticket from Pyin Oo Lwin train station to Nawngpeng, costing 1600 kyat one-way the day before we were due to travel.
Tickets must be bought a day in advance of travel from the station. Passports must also be presented to purchase a ticket.
Spanning 2,260 feet, the steel bridge has 14 towers that span 40 feet across Hsipaw Township in Northern Shan State. The rail line was constructed as a way for the British Empire to expand its influence in the region.
Up until 2015, people were allowed to walk along the bridge, but since the government deemed it too dangerous that has now been banned.
As the train slowly crept towards the viaduct all the passengers became excited. My initial fears brought on by the sound of brakes creaking were replaced by amazement.
When we neared the viaduct everybody began positioning themselves by the windows, jostling for the best angle from which to take a photo. Going slowly round a bend, the stunning vista presented us with a good photo opportunity.
Everyone was half hanging out of the windows, seemingly oblivious to the 102-meter drop and river below.
And it was at this point I remembered why traveling by train is so special; so incredible and breathtaking, and at times the most superior way of seeing the world. I shouted out, “Hla Lite Tar… Hla Lite Tar” (It’s beautiful..beautiful..) all the way.
The crossing takes about 20 minutes to complete before entering the first tunnel, which submerged us in total darkness and like a theme park ride created the expectation of something bigger to come.
Not long after, the light dissipated the darkness, but it wasn’t long before we were once again in another tunnel.
We reached the next stop, Nawngpeng, at around 11am. We alighted and bought a return ticket back to Pyin Oo Lwin.
The upper class tickets were sold out, so for the return journey I got regular class ticket costing only 700Ks each.
The regular class carriages, thoughcertainly not bad for the price, are a significant downgrade from the upper class seats. It was hard to find a seat, and if you were not careful someone would swoop in and take yours. But the train was full of vendors selling food and refreshments.
Though some parts of the journey are bumpy, the ride offers the chance to see beautiful scenery and local life. Travelling along the viaduct is a smooth, enjoyable ride.
After an eight-hour round trip we were back at Pyin Oo Lwin station. (Something worth noting is that the views from seats A and B are better than those from C and D.)
The train leaves Pyin Oo Lwin train station at approximately 7.50am daily and takes about 3 hours to reach the viaduct. If you want to get there faster, going by car is a good option as the journey time is only an hour and a half. Hotels can arrange a private car and driver for you for about 30,000Ks.
Most travelers get back to Pyin Oo Lwin from Nawngpeng by car and this is usually arranged prior to the train ride. Another option is a shared minivan taxi which leaves for Pyin Oo Lwin soon after the train arrives. This option will get you back to Pyin Oo Lwin at around 3pm.