The Train from Kalaw to Shwenyaung

Last modified 31.10.2022 | Published 11.08.20132010's, Myanmar, South and Southeast Asia, Travelogue

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I was heading for Inle Lake and the train from Kalaw to Shwenyaung was to be my third train journey in Myanmar. This is a great country for train rides. They are not for comfort, but for the scenery outside, life on the stations and life on board. 

This is #6 of twelve articles describing my 2013 visit to Myanmar. In addition there are 7 videos and a large picture album. 


Before getting here

I had already taken the night train from Yangon to Mandalay and I had crossed the awesome Gokteik Viaduct on a day trip. Back home, planning my trip to Myanmar, I had come across a website with all kinds of information on train rides across the globe. Seat61 offered this remark on the journey to Shwenyaung:

“So to reach Inle Lake, first take an express train from Rangoon or Mandalay to Thazi and stop overnight, then travel to Shwenyaung on either a bus taking 4-5 hours on bad roads or by far the better option, on an absolutely amazing scenic ride on the ‘Slow Train From Thazi’ as shown below. The train ride might be the highlight of your trip!”


Now for this train ride

I took that piece of advice with me. However, it turned out to be too awkward and time-consuming to board that train in Thazi. Therefore I had taken a bus from Bagan to Kalaw, about halfway on the railway line from Thazi. I spent one night in the cool old British hill station. It was a fascinating town, high up in the mountainous region of the Shan State. It was no wonder that the Brits preferred the heights to the hot and damp lowlands of Yangon. They even brought Indians and Nepalese with them. Burma was ruled by the British viceroy in India. There are still quite a large number of them here.

Kalaw is by the way a popular place for hikes. I contemplated the options but decided on not spending my last days in Myanmar that way. I was heading for the magnificent Inle Lake. However, I was determined to ride the “slow train” at least some of the way, more precisely four hours. At the day of departure I entered the train station’s ticket office and paid 3 USD in cash. As far as I remember the train arrived and left more or less on time.

Here is a collection of pictures from this train ride. 


Impressions in and around the train

The landscape seemed more cultivated than I had seen on my previous trip, to Nawngpeng further north. Apart from that it was a relaxing trip. We had a long stop at Aungban and the train ride was enlivened by a young boy, pictured above in a rare quiet moment while staring out the window. There were quite a few foreigners on this train too. It was a fine way to get to Inle Lake. Actually the train arrives at Shwenyaung, from where there is a 20-30 minute drive into the main town at Inle Lake. It is called Nyaungshwe and is situated on the northern end of the lake.

At the train station in Shwenyaung most foreigners seemed to vanish. I suspect they were picked up by local guides on a pre-arranged deal. I had, as usually, no such arrangements and threw my gear on the top of a vehicle looking like a combination of tuk-tuk and jeepney, and sat down inside with a bunch of locals.


The video from this train ride to Shwenyaung


My Myanmar travel map

This map is an overview. Zoom in and out of this very detailed map and click the markers. You may also expand the map into a new tab or window. The railway line east of Kalaw has a a thin red line.



Read more

This article is part of a series from Myanmar, describing my travels in August 2013. My visit is presented in ten chapters, a planning document and an article with some final impressions from a country which is included on just about everyone’s bucket list. Read all chapters:

(1) Introduction (plan)

(2) The Amazing Shwedagon Pagoda

(3) Central Yangon

(4) The Night Train to Mandalay

(5) The Train Across the Gokteik Viaduct

THIS CHAPTER: (6) The Train from Kalaw to Shwenyaung

(7) Amarapura, Sagaing Hill, Inwa and U Bein

(8) Mandalay

(9) The Temples of Bagan

(10) What else to see in Bagan

(11) Inle Lake

(12) Impressions