We boarded the 5pm train from Yangon station, headed for Thazi. Here we get off at 5am, and wait 2 hours for the 7am train to Kalaw. From Thazi it is a 7 hour trip to Kalaw.
It it sounds pretty arduous, but the slow train from Thazi to Kalaw showcases amazing vistas and we didn't want to miss that.
Get a sleeper cabin. We ended up with reclining chairs because the sleeper was booked up. I would have loved to check out the sleepers. The reclining chairs aren't bad, and are spacious, but it was hard to get in the ideal sleeping position.
Take sleeping pills. There is no way I would've got any sleep without these. It is rickety and loud, and there are people around. But hey, I am the worlds lightest sleeper...you might be okay.
Take snacks. Also, buy them before you get to the train station...or at least before you go to your platform and get stuck there. We figured we could get some dinner from locals selling on the train like the Kyaikyto to Yangon train, but all that was sold was boiled eggs. Not my idea of dinner! There are loads of people selling delicious foods on the second train, and you can quickly jump off and get some noodles from the rail-side stalls.
Shut the windows when it gets dark. It's much quieter.
Don't drink too much - you only want to go to the toilet once! It's a squat toilet don't forget. A very wet squat toilet. Wear shoes.
Be prepared for the possibility of a rat running over your feet. Maybe wear shoes at all times. Don't scream and wake up the other passengers.
Get off at Thazi and have a break. Use your bag as a pillow. Hopefully you'll still be in a daze from your sleeping pills. Also, don't look at the dogs out the window if they are sleeping on the tracks. No good will come from that.
Get on the slow train to Kalaw at 7am. Still avoid looking at the dogs. Go to your allocated seats and be prepared for a slow but spectacular journey.
Jump off at any places where it looks like a whole lot of food stalls and get some traditional Shan food. Also, be prepared for the train to sometimes not move for an hour or so.
Be amused at the weirdest train route you'll ever go on. There is one town called Zigzag because the train goes up, and then zigzags back down the same way. It's odd, and hard to explain.
Hang out the windows and wave at all the locals. They'll love it, you'll love it, everyone will be happy.