FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Winter fog in Mokpalin

Posted in Kyaikhto, Myanmar by folkestonejack on January 12, 2017

The guide books might have promised wall to wall sunshine for this time of year but after two days of mixed weather we already had reason to doubt this. Now, waking up to thick fog, we started to wonder whether there was any hope of conditions returning to their seasonal norm. However, the ‘atmospheric’ conditions did offer an interesting variation for the start of our day’s photographic endeavours.

Two monks look on as YD964 hauls our train out of Mokpalin

Two monks look on as YD964 hauls our train out of Mokpalin

Three false departures got us underway with a little assistance from some passers by who were only to happy to provide a little local colour. It was rather lovely to see how much the locals got into the spirit of our little adjustments to the scene, with one chap transformed from bemused bystander into director of photography! Fortunately we were able to correct the instructions he gave his models on how to stand and where to look before our train passed through…

We boarded a box-car on our train and headed away from Mokpalin at 8.10am. The morning continued to offer some splendid vignettes of rural life, including a marvellous scene with an ox and cart, as well as the daily sight of monks lining up to receive their donations of rice. As ever, what you see in the picture is not always an absolutely accurate reflection of life – for example, you won’t see shots that show the many kids or farm workers wearing premier league football shirts.

An ox and cart driver looks on as our train heads towards Kyaikkathr

An ox and cart driver looks on as our train heads towards Kyaikkathr

Our train took us on to Kyaikkathr, where we tried a few runpasts around the station and the town sign a little farther on (9.45-10.05am) before continuing on to Boyagyi (10.40am) where we stopped for half an hour to allow an express to pass through. The express turned up on schedule (10.55am) hauled by DF2023 (a CKD7 diesel electric locomotive built by CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co., China) and we continued on our way fifteen minutes later.

The stop at Boyagyi gave us a chance to buy refreshments from the small stalls surrounding the station but it also
offered up one of the unexpected highlights of the day when our casual wander brought us to the local pagoda. It was a magnificent construction for what appeared to be just a small village. Although I had long since stopped photographing every stupa that we passed (having realised that there are far too many of them and that this was as absurd as photographing every parish church on a drive in England!) I couldn’t resist taking a few snaps of this place.

The splendid pagoda in Boyagyi

The splendid pagoda in Boyagyi

One of the oddities of our itinerary saw us stay overnight in Kyaikhto (Thuwunna Bumi Mountain View Resort), take an early bus to Mokpalin and then complete the circle by returning to Kyaikhto by train at midday. A longish lunch stop was a necessity here as express trains were due in both directions, allowing us time enough to soak up the atmosphere and take a few extra shots.

The station was a bit smarter than most we have seen in these parts, probably reflecting its importance as a jumping off point for trips to the golden rock. Having said that, just a handful of tourists got off the train here and I only saw a handful of westerners on the train heading south. I suspect the full force of the tourist invasion has yet to hit Mon State, which is not so surprising as it is some way off the main tourist circuit of Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay.

A rather splendid health and safety poster at the station reminds ox and cart drivers to look out for trains

A rather splendid health and safety poster at the station reminds ox and cart drivers to look out for trains

It was fascinating to watch the scene at the station, from the locals sitting on the rails waiting for the arrival of the express to the hawkers on the platforms readying their wares for the arrival of the expresses. The first to arrive was the late running train 89 from Yangon to Mawlamyine, hauled by DF1332, whilst the second was train 90 running from Mawlamyine to Yangon.

Incredibly, the next scheduled express passenger train after these had passed would be the 11.17pm service to Dawei Port. Thankfully, our charter train would be on its way long before then!

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