For a long time I have been wanting to travel the Circular train route around Yangon, and finally, I have done it together with Andy, a friend since many years and newly established Tour Guide and Operator. Will tell you more about his business in a later blog just in case you are thinking of travelling in Myanmar and need some helpful advice, and his good company.
The train runs this route between 3.45 am and 10.15 pm, eleven times in a clockwise direction but also several times anti-clockwise, all trains stopping at the 37 stations along the way covering a total distance of 46 km (28.5 miles). Many people use it to get to and from work, and it is also a very convenient and cheap way for people to bring their wares, particularly fresh vegetables into the markets of Yangon. We took the 8.20 train which started off pretty empty as it had already delivered workers into the city but it certainly became more crowded and lively as we progressed. By the time we arrived back at the main Yangon Station, we were pretty loaded up with people and produce. The round trip costs Kyat 400 per person (approx USD.37), so for locals, it’s a good deal and for tourists, this is a great way to get a feeling for the city and surrounding countryside. The average speed of the train is just 15 kph (9.5 mph) and about 100-150,000 tickets are sold per day.
These are some of the people we travelled with and some views from the train as we chugged and swayed along the tracks.
My friend Andy who rode with me and explained a few things along the way
The Circular route from Yangon Central Station downtown and back again
Yangon Central Railway Station rather empty at 8.10 in the morning
All aboard, and the guard too with his green flag and lunch bag
We shared the carriage with this family perhaps on their way to visit relatives for the day
Railway linesmen also boarded the train and hopped on and off along the tracks to do their work
For some, it was a time to catch up on much-needed sleep
A typical local station, with people going about their business of the day
Breakfast by the tracks
Waiting for the train
Young flower-sellers on their way to the market
Another station, all waiting for the train
No seats left inside? It’s comfortable and cool to sit on the steps
Or be ready to jump off as soon as the train slows
Flower-seller in traditional hat checking her phone, an unheard of luxury until very recently
Andy, intrigued, sees that she is sending only photos of flowers – to her potential customers? Or perhaps just to friends
Looking the length of the train still pretty empty, plenty of seats available
A salesman prepares betel wads for travellers to buy
Just a reminder – no smoking, no littering, no kissing – on these trains
We slow to let workers and official off to inspect a train which has seen better days. What will become of it?
At another station, a young man walks alongside then hoists himself and his sack of rice onto the train
Waiting for the train
Walking the tracks, stylish in red and blue, face heavily made up with thanakha
Baskets ready, the next stop is a local market
Vegetable and fruit sellers between the tracks, ready to sell their wares to the south bound or north bound travellers
More sellers further along the tracks with a local market behind
On our way again, plenty more produce loaded, but still time to relax and read the news of the day
Vegetables aplenty, and not so easy anymore to negotiate the length of the train
Chatting, sitting most comfortably, cross-legged
Cutting and tying the vegetables in bundles ready for the market in Yangon
Out in the countryside now, chugging past clusters of houses and farmers harvesting crops
A woman and her kids walk along a station platform, pottery water jars behind to quench anyone’s thirst
Fruit and snacks available at the next station
A portable food stall with its own loud-hailer takes up most of the corridor for the next few miles
Off the train and carrying their wares and bundles across the tracks
A child with his mother looks curiously at the other passengers on the train
A food-seller preparing his fried tofu snacks, filling some with grated cabbage
Is the train coming? Another platform, another traveller waiting for his train
Here it comes. The train driver with his a young companion
Waiting on the steps, mesmerised by the movement of the train
Faces – a pensive older man and a young man chatting behind
Looking back along the tracks
Off they go to sell their wares
The three hours on the train was a great experience, interesting and sometimes amusing, a chance to see another slice of life in Myanmar and to interact with the other passengers should you so wish.
I’ll tell you more about Andy’s new Travel Company in my next blog.