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State-owned Myanmar Railways is to launch a new express train this weekend connecting the former capital Rangoon to Kyaiktiyo in Mon state, the site of the famous Golden Rock Pagoda.
Tun Aung Thin, lower Burma general manager of Myanmar Railways, said the newly refurbished train, bought from Japan, will make travel more convenient for tourists and pilgrims who wish to travel to Kyaiktiyo.
The air-conditioned train is scheduled to run one return journey every weekend, leaving Rangoon on Saturday and returning from Kyaiktiyo the following day, a four and a half hour journey each way with stops at Pegu, Waw and Theinzayat. Tun Aung Thin said this service could be expanded in the future.
One-way tickets, which must be booked one week in advance, will be 3,500 kyat (under US$4) for locals and $10 for foreign travellers.
Tun Aung Thin said Myanmar Railways had negotiated with local bus services to link the train station to the foot of Kyaiktiyo hill.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda sits atop a giant gold-leaf encrusted boulder at the top of a hill. Appearing to defy gravity, legend says it is balanced by a hair relic of the Lord Buddha. Pilgrimages to the rock are immensely popular among Buddhists from around Burma and elsewhere.
The town seems set for a large influx of foreign tourists: in addition to the new train service, several new flights have recently been announced to Rangoon, as well as a new Nok Air service from Thailand’s Mae Sot to the Mon capital Moulmein. Kyaiktiyo is also situated on the Asian Highway route which will eventually link Rangoon to Bangkok.