Mandalay – Myitkyina Train Trip

Translated from Burmese. Original article posted on Nyi Lynn Seck’s Blog.

Wish Grandpa to take a train trip


This month, I traveled for more than 5,000 miles total. When I was young, I used to be very happy whenever I traveled long trips like this. However, more recently, whenever I traveled, it makes me very tired. The last trip was from Myitkyina. (Translator’s note: Myitkyina is the capital of Kachin State, which is situated in the north of Myanmar). From Yangon to Mandalay, and from Mandalay to Myitkyina. What a long trip. What a long time it took. Would you believe that I was thinking about you, Grandpa, all the time while I was in the extremely dirty train, full of passengers and full of bugs?

Let me tell you from the very beginning. We started our trip at Mandalay Railway Station. Our group was altogether eleven. We tried to buy train tickets to Myitkyina, but all we got was the same usual answer – “No ticket”. Our group is actually survey group for a UNDP project in Kachin State. We have all the necessary documents and permits. We have been trying to get the train tickets since we arrived to Mandalay. We met with the station manager. However, all we got was the same kind of answer again and again – “no ticket”. Finally, as usual, we tried to buy from the black market.

To tell the truth, Grandpa, I don’t like such kind of things like black markets and corruptions. I feel like this is taking advantage on people. I don’t want to earn money this way nor do I want to give a single dime to such kind of people. However, such kinds of things are very popular in our country. If we want to get anything done, until or unless you give a little “tea money”, you won’t get what you want. (Translator’s note: tea-money is the slang in Myanmar which means “a small bribe”). Even when you go and deposit your money in the bank, even when you deposit your own money, you still need to give tea-money. (Translator’s note: the author is talking about government banks here). More than one million kyat, you have to pay two thousand kyat. More than ten million kyat and the tea-money is around 5,000 kyat. Grandpa, the staffs are very polite. They would never ask how much you have to pay. They would never ask for bribe. However, there are so many people coming to deposit money at the bank. The way they count notes is also taking so long. Sometimes, you need to wait for the whole morning, sometimes the whole day. If you don’t give them the little tea-money, they won’t count your money for a long time. Just wait the whole day. If you want it quick, give the tea-money. Clever, huh? When you pay like this, they will take. However, if you are not lucky, you might be charged with attempted bribery! Well, I will talk about it to you later. Let’s continue about our train.

Original Post by Nyi Lynn Seck at Wish Grandpa to take a train trip.

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