On a day trip from Harrison, thanks to our friends local intel, we checked out the Othello Tunnels, a park close to the town of Hope on Highway 3. In town we discovered that Hope and surrounds is where Rambo First Blood was filmed – they are celebrating the 35th anniversary soon. There was also a mountie in full kit roaming the streets, but I didn’t get a chance for a pic.
It was a lovely walk and the tunnels were impressive. We approached from the further entrance, which had cougar and bear sighting warnings – as is common almost everywhere in BC.
On the name: apparently the chief engineer was a Shakespeare fan. And when they first ran the train service they scheduled it at night so passengers couldn’t see the sheer drops either side.
And so we had to say goodbye to our home away from home, Noom Guesthouse, and take up our second class train tix (good seats, no aircon – but fans) to travel to Ayutthaya. We arrived late afternoon so our first temple viewing was great timing for some sunset shots.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure about going to Lop Buri. About 6 years ago we went through on the train to Chiang Mai and saw monkeys wandering the train tracks and the streets – and M was keen to go back. I love watching monkeys – but I don’t want them on my head. Anyway, it transpired that a Thai friend of ours comes from Lop Buri – so it was an additional reason to make a stop on this trip.
It was a relatively short ride from Phitsanulok – about 4 hours. We could only buy train tickets on the day, and only 3rd class was available, which means harder seats and more sweat. Our wait for the train at Phitsanulok was quite enjoyable – there was an excellent food market right next door which helped pass the time, and we also bought some dumplings for lunch.
Luckily when we reached the other end, it was only a 5 minute walk from the train station to the wonderful Noom Guesthouse.
We left Chiang Mai knowing there are still plenty of things for us to do on our next visit, whenever that might be. We caught the 8.50am train from Chaing Mai, alighting at Phitsanoluk at about 2.30pm. The second class air con seats were very good, and included a snack and lunch brought to your seat. M had organised hiring a car, which we had to pick up from the airport. It was very easy to negotiate an open taxi ride to get there too. The airport was very neat and had at least 4 other hire car stands besides our chosen company in the terminal, along with ATM machines and coffee shops.
We headed for our destination, Ruean Thai Hotel. The staff are very welcoming, a good source of local knowledge, and they have a great pool there as well. And it’s close to the Sukhothai Historical Park. (As with all my recommendations to date, not a paid endorsement – I just really like the place).
Purchasing train tickets to travel from Mawlamyine to Bago involved three conversations with rail staff on three different days. On the afternoon we arrived in Mawlamyine, we checked that we could buy a ticket the following day, and were told that we could, but at the other counters on the other side of the station. The Mawlamyine station is quite impressive, clean marble floors and obviously no one allowed to hang about or sell anything from the front area of the station. The ticket office is split between windows for tickets for same day travel – on the right when you enter the station, while the other side sells tickets for future days.
While in Yangon we could buy a ticket three days before, this was not the case in Mawlamyine, despite the advice we received on the first day. The next morning we went to the correct counter, only to be told that we could only buy a ticket one day in advance and would have to come back the following morning. Which we did, and following our taxi driver’s advice went to the daily ticket counter, to be told we could buy a ticket, but from the other counter on the other side of the station. We duly walked across the shining marble once again, and yes, we were at the right counter, and we could buy a ticket! Wait, said the ticket seller. He then walked across to the marble foyer all the way to the daily tickets counter, and came back with the ticket book, so that he could write out our ticket for travel the following morning.
To buy a train ticket in Myanmar you have to go to the train station a couple of days before you want to travel (with your passport) and pay in cash for a hand written ticket. Or in the case of Mawlamyine, a day before. In Yangon we had our ‘upper’ ticket purchased and we had a great trip – leaving at 7.15am and arriving at 4.50pm. Thanks to Seat61 for so much info! The trip was worth it just to experience the passing parade of amazing food and snack choices available, many of which were offered from the heads of very poised snack merchants. Oh, and the scenery. More golden pagodas than you ever thought possible. Also farms, rice paddies, and water buffalo.