Our original plan had been to travel from Bhamo to Myitkyina, where we would catch a flight back south to Mandalay, spend a couple of days, and then do the more touristy boat route from Mandalay to Bagan. We had worked with a travel agent the night we arrived in Mandalay (Seven Diamonds, nice people) who had been able to help us with tickets for parts of our itinerary, but could only get us on a wait list for the flight from Myitkyina to Mandalay.
We’d called again from Bhamo and still got no guarantee. We decided to risk it and take the bus to Myitkyina anyway, figuring that we could probably secure seats on the plane more easily if we showed up in person.
The bus to Myitkyina was definitely a change from the one we took from Yangon. Ancient and overly ventilated (doors and windows didn’t shut properly, if at all), the poor thing was also packed to the gills, with passengers squeezed onto little plastic seats in the aisles. It was a short (albeit bumpy) ride (I believe about 6 hours) and the scenery was great, so we enjoyed it. Probably not something we’d like to do every day though. Most of the roads we traveled on were dirt, so by the end of the trip, we, and all our gear, were covered in a thick layer of dust.
One of the first things we did upon arrival in Myitkyina was go to the airline office. It was a futile visit – we were told that there were no open seats until four or five days later. Even if we had wanted to hang out in Myitkyina that long, our limited visa and ambitious travel plans meant that we couldn’t afford to lose that much time.
We investigated other options and discovered that it was possible to get to Mandalay by train. To the train station we went then, where we booked tickets for the next day with what we understood to be a private company – difficult to verify if this was true or not however. The train was scheduled for around 2 in the afternoon and was due to take around 19 hours, overnight. (Just a side note for myself, after buying our tickets, we met the most lovely taxi driver outside the station called Duhrey (miss-spelled, I’m sure) who was eager to practice his English with us) This was even longer than our longest train journeys in India, and we’d heard the tracks were in awful shape (allegedly, they date back to the English colonial times), making for a rough ride at times, but we thought we’d be adventurous and try it. I’ll write more about the journey in another post – definitely an experience!! 🙂
One other quick note – at this point we’d left Elmer and Ohmar in Bhamo. They had a few more stops ahead of them before they planned to return to Yangon – some the same as us. The timing of our intended dates in the same places was a bit tight though, so we exchanged information and agreed to meet up again in Yangon, feeling very lucky for the insight and fun company they infused into the boat ride and time in Bhamo.