Reviews on travel forums said that the trains from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw were frequently notoriously late. We were in luck as our train was only delayed for a brief 20 minutes, giving us time to make friends with a friendly local and an Englishman.
The train was moving at snail's speed the whole way yet I still managed to get slapped in the face by random overgrown branches from the open window. It was an eye-opener seeing merchants selling everything from tea leaf salad, bottled rum, sticks of barbecued meat, noodles (!) to medicinal roots coming on board at intervals to sell their products. Our tummies rumbled when the ladies balancing a large plate of fried noodles precariously on top of their heads appeared and we promptly bought two servings.
The main reason why I chose a slow train ride for this leg of the trip was because we wanted to see the Goiteik Viaduct. The train stopped momentarily before crossing the viaduct; a cue for the passengers to pop their heads and cameras out of the open window.
After hours of nodding in and out of sleep, helped by the rocking motion, we finally reached Hsipaw at 3pm. The dude from London joined us in our search for Nao Kae Mao guest house after we shared the bad reviews that I had read (from travel forums) about the main guest house over sips of jackfruit wine.
Having arrived too late in the day to start any hikes, we chatted with the staff at Nao Kae Mao. The friendly receptionist called the train the "buffalo train", telling us that he would never take the rickety slow train in favour of the buses.
The next morning, we woke up an hour after the stipulated breakfast time at our guest house but the guys there were so sweet and fed us anyway. When they heard that we were going out for breakfast, they told us that breakfast was included in the room rates and promptly set up a table for us at the balcony area.
After a leisurely breakfast of toast, eggs and fruit, we rented bicycles (that were too tall for my short legs) to cycle around the village, stumbling upon pockets of quiet serenity. As the day wore on, we headed to Sunset hill. The climb was tortuous and I demanded that we leave our bicycles (the bane of my life!) halfway up the hill. Well, all I can say is that the view at the top was well-worth the climb. We ended our day with seven mugs of beer at the local watering hole where we bumped into the Israeli girl from our guesthouse in Bagan.
One thing charming about travelling is that it affords me the anonymity that I crave for from time to time and it also makes it easier to chat with people from all over.