Check out what happened when my train from Hsipaw to Pwin Oo Lwin went off the tracks! A train derailment in Myanmar is an adventure for travellers but for locals, it’s a part of everyday life.

After the high of the viaduct crossing, and with 3 hours to go, sleep drifts in and out as the train returns to its regular speed and rocking motion.

Myanmar train off tracks

Uh-oh… my first look at the scene of the crime…

After some time, the train stops, but the pause is longer than usual, even by Myanmar standards.

The view outside the window is of soil and vegetation – more akin to the wilderness than a station stop.

Also, there are no food and drink vendors to be seen.

The train is disquietingly silent, yet there is murmur and milling outside.

People milling around train

This is why the train wasn’t moving!

Venturing out to investigate, people are seen moving in both directions.

Following down the train, the issue becomes apparent – the next carriage over has come off the track, and the rest of the train lies crooked and curved.

Train carriage after derailment

One of the carriages came off the track

More people start heading the other way, towards a dirt road and resthouse.

It is fortuitous, to not have been abandoned in the middle of nowhere.

Me and derailed train

I’m happy to be alive!

Many passengers remain on the train – to wait hours or days, but certainly through nightfall.

There are costs to consider, of one or more nights accommodation elsewhere, the purchase of another train fare – not everyone has options.

Tea is offered, phone calls are made. For the foreigner, all there is to do is wait.

Waiting at train derailment

Waiting for alternative transport to Pwin Oo Lwin

The local people remain utterly calm – derailments are not uncommon in this part of the world. These are humbling and sobering realisations.

Finally, the police arrive, along with a pick-up truck… surely for everyone waiting, it must be the first of several to follow.

But no, it is just the one.

Pick up truck in rural Myanmar

Finally a pick-up truck arrives

People in pickup truck Myanmar

There’s always room for one more in Myanmar

The locals ensure the foreigners have a place, along with the women and children. The men fill the gaps or ride standing on the back.

As always in Asia, there is always room for one more and nobody is left behind.

For more information on this journey, see our post Onboard the Gokteik Viaduct Train from Hsipaw.

Carriage after train derailment

This is what a train derailment looks like!

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The Story of a Train Derailment in Myanmar

*** The Final Word – A train derailment is a very unique Burmese experience that money can’t buy! ***

Have you ever been in a train derailment?

3 ShovelsAccessible DIY travel to more distant locations via multiple connections or longer forms of public transport

Visited in June 2014