A train, a monkey and a fiesta


It’s still Friday somewhere in the world. Happy Friday!

This was one of those weeks. Catching the cold that is sweeping through city offices. Photos disappearing from the SD card (huh?). Scheduling this post to publish on Friday 15th rather than Friday 8th (huh??).

A Fiesta

Belatedly, may I present some photos from Myanmar (Burma), as I dash over to take up my duties as co-hostess of this week’s Fiesta Friday. My co-host Margot @ Gather and Graze has been there for hours, pouring out her signature Dame Edna cocktail, and generally being wonderful. Think of Margot as your on-time, organised, gracious chatelaine. And me as the sitcom-style comic relief (“icing sugar!” “monkeys!” “photo disappearing trick!”).

Please come and join us, last week there was a flood of zucchinis and chocolate and a cat dressed up as a human as a cat. I can’t wait to see what this week’s party will bring.

A train

Not many train lines in the world become attractions in their own right. One of them is the train over the Gorteik viaduct in Northern Myanmar (Burma). When it was built, was the largest railway trestle in the world, and has been described as one of the most beautiful train rides. It also featured in Paul Theroux’s book The Great Railway Bazaar.


The journey starts at 4am in Mandalay. It is 12-15 hours to get to the mountain village of Hsipaw, and several more hours to the end of the line in Lashio. (The same journey to Hsipaw is 5 hours by bus.)

We ambled, lurched, stopped, reversed, shuddered, lurched and even went forward! It was so bumpy in “ordinary class”, we may have been airborn. Something to do with narrow gauge tracks, and the train not fitting perfectly – gulp.

And, it was one of the highlights of my trip. Where else would you sit with a group of sleeping soldiers, with durians and clay pots under your feet….


… feel extremely brave as you lean out the door of the train, holding the handrail, to get the obligatory “we are going over the Viaduct!” photo? We comforted ourselves with the thought that, if we fell off, at least there would not be a slow lingering death …

… and catch the first glimpse of Hsipaw as you roll in, slightly battered, 15 hours later?


And a monkey


At the blink of an eye, this little fella can drop the wise-beyond-his-years pose and be tugging scarfs, cameras, food and drink bottles from hapless visitors. As you walk up the covered stairway at Mount Popa – all 700+ steps – the monkeys scamper around you, friendly, inquisitive, and mildly “eek” when they show you their canine teeth (“ok, you can have my water bottle, goooood monkey”).


Mount Popa is a temple dedicated to nats – Burmese spirits – who can send good and bad things your way, and seem to get along with Buddha just fine. (I saw a few nat shrines within Buddhist temple courtyards)


Mount Popa temple complex sits on a striking, almost vertical hill, that just rises out of the ground about an hour’s drive out of hot, flat, dusty Bagan. As the car winds its way towards the hill, the air becomes cooler, the greenery greener, and the durians more ‘robust’ in smell. The covered stairway had nat shrines at every turn. We were outnumbered by school kids who raced each other, and the monkeys, up the stairs; and wondered what each of the nats could do.


And at the top of the hill, we – and the tribe of monkeys – were walking among clouds.

(I wonder if the monkeys have my missing photos?)



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60 thoughts on “A train, a monkey and a fiesta

  1. apsara 9 August 2014 at 3:41 pm Reply

    Beautiful pictures! I have not seen a monkey captured so well. Love the top of the hill too!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 11:18 pm Reply

      Thank you Apsara, it was such a coincidence, the monkey was just sitting there! πŸ™‚

  2. lapetitepaniere 9 August 2014 at 3:46 pm Reply

    Saucy, thank you so much for sharing this gorgeous picture with us πŸ™‚ Thanks for co-hosting this week and Happy FF!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 11:19 pm Reply

      Glad to co-host, it’s always so much fun mingling with everyone! πŸ™‚

  3. Tracey@WhatsforDinnerDoc.com 9 August 2014 at 4:25 pm Reply

    Monkeys have always fascinated me. I used to beg my Mom to let me have one as a pet. My son is a primate behaviorist. He researches how to keep monkeys happy in captivity. I always say, “They would be happiest not being in captivity!” Thanks for the adorable photos.

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 11:23 pm Reply

      Monkeys are fascinating aren’t they? So intelligent, the monkeys I saw would stay out of the actual shrines and temples, but anything else was fair game! It was really interesting seeing them in the uncaged environment in Myanmar. Thank you for visiting, Tracey!

  4. sabine 9 August 2014 at 5:31 pm Reply

    This first photo is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing your exiting travel experiences….!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 11:24 pm Reply

      I’m glad you liked the photo Sabine, have a great week! πŸ™‚

  5. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 9 August 2014 at 5:41 pm Reply

    That monkeys are adorable! I could watch them for hours. They’re my husband’s favourite animal-I think because he sometimes acts like one! πŸ˜›

  6. polianthus 9 August 2014 at 7:42 pm Reply

    great pics, great story, I wont be electing to go on the viaduct train-ride, the older I get the more risk averse I become, seeing the train and the viaduct made me gulp but true if you fell off with the train it would take the train 7.13 seconds to reach the bottom of the gorge (250m is the height of the viaduct) and as speed at start we would to simplify matters take as 0. to my shame and sadness I was forced to look up this simple physics equation I once knew so well. So you would have 7 seconds to contemplate the end and then it would be fast and terminal. I once calculated whether if you fell out of a passenger jet at cruising height you would suffocate or freeze before you hit the ground, I think we decided you would freeze to death – this was while on a date with a pilot, I never saw him again, I remember the evening was entertaining in a morbid way though! Happy weekend!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 11:10 pm Reply

      Bahahaa! Your comment just (belatedly) made my day! Now I’m off to tell everyone at work how close to death I really was, scientifically. Although if there are trees at the bottom, or a river, would that make a difference to whether I still die instantly??
      It’s always great to see you here, Poli, have a good week!

      • polianthus 12 August 2014 at 6:02 am

        Ha – really calculations of imminent death avoided make your day πŸ™‚ – hm trees or river at the bottom make a difference – it would be like hitting cement, after lengthy discussions in the house while my dear favourite significant other puts away the laundry as i type, he points out, that in actual fact the acceleration would probably kill you before you hit the ground….so less than 7 seconds. I am sure that can be calculated too, but just got home from a long work day so that is going to have to do today πŸ™‚
        lovely to visit as always happy Monday Poli

  7. Margot @ Gather and Graze 9 August 2014 at 8:41 pm Reply

    Your posts are always such a feast for the senses Saucy! You capture the essence of your adventures so well, both in your writing and your photographs (though sorry to hear that you’ve lost some! 😦 ). I adore monkeys, yet have never had the opportunity to come face to face with one without some form of barrier between us – I imagine when they decide to show those canine teeth it could be a little disconcerting and not quite so cute and adorable anymore!
    So much fun to be here co-hosting FF with you again… I say bring on the D.E. Cocktails, a flurry of icing sugar and a whole barrel full of monkeys! Happy Fiesta Friday!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 11:03 pm Reply

      Margot, thank you for this lovely comment. Myanmar had so many beautiful yet complex facets, I would have loved to stay longer. Another time!

  8. dedy oktavianus pardede 9 August 2014 at 9:34 pm Reply

    wow, what a great journey,
    the train photograph made me thingking about Divergent movie, jumping all the way from the ttain, lol

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 11:24 pm Reply

      Haha! Now jumping from the train is something I definitely won’t be brave enough to do! Thank you for visiting!

  9. Suchitra 10 August 2014 at 12:02 am Reply

    Saucy, I can totally relate to your train experience as being an Indian, I have travelled umpteen number of times in the Indian trains and they are very similar to the once in Myanmar.Thanks for sharing the interesting experience and wonderful pictures!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:52 pm Reply

      Oh I’d love to travel to India, see the sights and catch some of the trains! Thank you for visiting!

  10. radhikasethi 10 August 2014 at 12:25 am Reply

    Love your photography Saucy, sorry that you lost some. The hills are so beautiful. This reminded me of the time we would travel by train from Pune to Bombay and we would eagerly wait to pass by the hill, “Monkey Hill” as it was inhabited by a huge colony of monkeys.. πŸ˜‰
    Happy FF!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:31 pm Reply

      Monkey Hill sounds fun, if I get to go there I will remember to bring food to bribe the monkeys, in case one of them takes my stuff! πŸ™‚

  11. Jody and Ken 10 August 2014 at 1:57 am Reply

    These are great great great! I am so jealous! Durians underfoot, a 15 hour train voyage in “ordinary class,” monkeys, Buddhist temples and a camera–what else could you want for an adventure? Thanks for the post. Ken

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:27 pm Reply

      Ken, I’m really glad you liked this post. It was a crazy-fun adventure and I even wondered if I could find a job in Yangon so I can live there for a while. Sadly not that easy.

  12. The Novice Gardener 10 August 2014 at 3:45 am Reply

    The monkeys could very well have something to do with your missing photos. It happened to us in Bali’s monkey forest. Our friend was pick-pocketed by a very clever monkey, who only returned the wallet after an offer of banana was given in exchange for it. Nice collection of photos you’re sharing with us, Saucy! ❀

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:19 pm Reply

      Cheeky monkeys! One stole my shoes at another temple, and had to be bribed with food.. Watch out they don’t gate crash a future FF!

  13. Kaila511 10 August 2014 at 3:58 am Reply

    Wow! Absolutely stunning photographs. I really like the one of the side of the train, and of course, the monkeys are adorable. Happy FF, and have a wonderful weekend! πŸ™‚

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:17 pm Reply

      Thank you! Taking the train photo was terrifying, but we couldn’t resist! πŸ™‚

  14. lapetitecasserole 10 August 2014 at 7:07 am Reply

    These photos are amazing Saucy! Are you were to be very talented with the camera??? Thanks for sharing and for co-hosting!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:16 pm Reply

      So glad you liked the photos! Myanmar was a beautiful country that seems made for photographers!

  15. Susan Edelman 10 August 2014 at 9:36 am Reply

    Thanks for hosting and for taking us in such a marvelous tour! I feel boring for sitting here in my usual spot drinking wine (no monkeys)!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:14 pm Reply

      Lol the monkeys would probably try to take the wine bottle!! They were so cheeky. πŸ™‚

  16. apuginthekitchen 10 August 2014 at 10:00 am Reply

    The photo’s are amazing Saucy, love seeing images from your amazing trip. Thanks for hosting the fiesta again, I think it will be a great party!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:13 pm Reply

      I’m so glad you liked the photos, there are still a few I’d love to share in the coming weeks…

  17. Jhuls 10 August 2014 at 7:05 pm Reply

    Thank you for taking us to Myanmar once again, Saucy. Those monkeys are really adorable. πŸ˜€

    And that train railway is something. I think I would be brave enough to look outside, but maybe feel dizzy after that. πŸ˜›

    Great photos, Saucy. And thanks for co-hosting again. πŸ™‚

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:10 pm Reply

      Thank you Jhuls, always lovely to see you around here! That train…yep it was fun but terrifying at the same time!

  18. Chitra Jagadish 10 August 2014 at 11:29 pm Reply

    Wow lovely pictures Saucy…thanx for taking us on a beautiful pictorial ride. …thanx for hosting Fiesta Friday…..have a lovely day. .

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:08 pm Reply

      Thank you so much, it is always fun to host FF! πŸ™‚

  19. chefjulianna 11 August 2014 at 6:39 am Reply

    Great photos, Saucy! So happy that you could bring them to FF!! I HATE monkeys!! They were really vicious somewhere on my travels and now I have an aversion to them! Wouldn’t put it past them to steal your pics!! :/

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:07 pm Reply

      They stole my shoes at another temple – !! Lol, it is funny in hindsight….

      • chefjulianna 12 August 2014 at 4:52 pm

        Ahhh! That’s why I hate them! Did you see any monkeys wearing your shoes?

      • saucygander 12 August 2014 at 10:31 pm

        Haha, no, I didn’t. Monkeys wearing shoes would have been a kodak moment!

  20. petra08 11 August 2014 at 9:11 am Reply

    What an adventure! Beautiful pictures and cheeky monkeys πŸ™‚

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:06 pm Reply

      Yep the monkeys were a highlight, never seen so many of them in the one place before!

  21. deliciouslynell 11 August 2014 at 9:18 am Reply

    Beautiful photos! Those monkeys are so cute!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:02 pm Reply

      They are, but watch out for their teeth! πŸ™‚

  22. Johnnysenough Hepburn 11 August 2014 at 12:02 pm Reply

    Your photo of the train/bridge reminded me of crossing over the Danube en route to Constanta, Romania. It must’ve taken at least 5 minutes – which must’ve aged me 5 years – to cross the entire gorge, even though some of that wasn’t over the river itself. The very modern train (ac and all) had to slow to an absolute crawl! OMG, terrifying. I think I would’ve taken the coach. πŸ™‚

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 10:01 pm Reply

      You had an ac train! It’s a trip that I’m glad I did, but would not necessarily do again. We took the coach on the way back, and it took 9 hours rather than 5 – !!

  23. Michelle 11 August 2014 at 12:29 pm Reply

    What an amazing trip!

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 9:58 pm Reply

      Thank you, it was, and there are more photos to be posted!

  24. […] Saucy […]

  25. cookingwithauntjuju.com 11 August 2014 at 7:58 pm Reply

    Beautiful photos – your picture of the train – yikes! Animals are always a good subject for pictures πŸ™‚

    • saucygander 11 August 2014 at 11:26 pm Reply

      Yep yikes is about right, in retrospect! Polianthus tells me I would have had 7.13 seconds to live, if I had fallen off. Hmm…! πŸ™‚

  26. Liz 12 August 2014 at 7:23 am Reply

    You are so much fun, Saucy. Love this post πŸ™‚ Sorry about the photos, but at least you got a good story out of it.

  27. Arl's World 12 August 2014 at 2:08 pm Reply

    Great pictures!!

  28. Mary Frances 15 August 2014 at 5:52 am Reply

    Your trip continues to amaze me. Mount Popa is breathtaking.

  29. Kloesunny @ Kloe's Kitchen 20 August 2014 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Such pretty pictures!!!!

  30. Karen 28 August 2014 at 11:58 pm Reply

    What an utterly fascinating adventure you had…loved the photos.

  31. indusinternationalkitchen 1 September 2014 at 1:25 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing your fascinating pics Saucy.! Absolutely love them! So spectacular – makes we want to travel to Myanmar sometime!

  32. milkandbun 3 September 2014 at 7:48 pm Reply

    You really took that train? Impressive view! Terrific photos!

  33. Mary Frances 26 February 2015 at 11:49 am Reply

    What a beautiful trip! Your photos are stunning!

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