If you’re travelling from Mandalay you will ben picked up in a minivan at about 9.15am (do note that this will be your bus) and arrive in Katha at about 8.30pm. It’s one hell of a long a dusty ride. Also Lonely Planet is wrong with their boat travel as boats don’t attempt the journey to and from Mandalay in the dry season.
We stayed in Eden Guesthouse which was the wrong place to stay. The dodgy guys there firstly wouldn’t show us a room, then tried to up the price for a very basic dirty room. Next time we would say at New Diamond Hotel – the room price is the same ($25 with ensuite) but the standard is much better, the team can assist with booking next legs and is the one place in town with working wifi.
As this part of the country rarely has visitors yo won’t find anywhere that can assist with maps of anywhere. If you want to do a tour of Orwell’s ‘Burmese Days’ then do you’re research before you arrive. I checked out a few blogs that photographed the sights – so while I knew what to expect I was also able to point out the sights once I arrived. Here’s a decent little youtube video as well.
While there is a train station and station master in Katha they won’t be any help to you as you will need to travel out to Naba to physically book your tickets. You do get warned that the trains book out and there are only 2 trains per day towards Mandalay and Shwebo – a 2pm pickup for the 4pm train or the 7pm pickup for the 9pm train. To book your ticket you will need to get a mototaxi to drive you there (45mins-1hr each way) for about $7-9 return. It took us 9.5 hours to get from Katha to Shwebo.
Poor accommodation – Even though we took an all day bus to Katha we still shipped out the next evening. We would have stayed longer if there were better accommodation options but to pay $25 for crap lodgings we decided to head on and take the overnight train. As there’s no real sights surrounding Katha as there are in other towns you only really need a day and a night if you get out and start exploring immediately.
We found some of the best street food in Myanmar in Katha. Make the most of the night markets, there’s one really good teak tea shop for when the heat hits in the middle of the day, beer stations overlook the river and in the evening there’s a street around the market that has large street food stalls showing films for the locals that are usually in english.
Investigate how easy it is to get to Monywa instead of Shwebo as Shwebo really doesn’t need an overnight stop over and you will still need to do another overnight stay to Monywa as the only bus to Bagan leaves at 7.30am.