Off the back of this week’s TWIP (the week in photos) theme of “Myanmar Transport” here’s a photo essay of a trip on Yangon’s Circle Train Line. It’s a three and a half hour long train journey that takes you through and around the city, offering a peek into the daily life of those who live in the city outskirts. The trains are quite weathered and for a measly $1 it will take you on a slow and bumpy journey past past twenty seven stations.
We were quite rushed getting to the Central Train Station and the train was about to take off when we arrived. Spotting the odd looking tourists rushing down the steps, the attendants instruct us to jump onto the yellow carriages as they hand us our tickets. This was in fact the “tourist” carriages which were carriages with the normal forward and back facing seating arrangements, with oscillating fans above for those who wanted a more comfortable ride.
At each stop, locals of all walks of life hop on and off, vendors sell snacks to passengers such as green mangos sprinkled with a smoked chilli powder and kids will sell water bottle refills. Everywhere you look at each station there are people escaping the heat, napping on shaded benches whilst the market stall owners will scurry to fit their massive loads of produce onto the train before sudden jolt of the carriage signals its impending departure.
In hindsight, it would have been a better idea to have hopped off during a scheduled stop and boarded a local carriage which only had seats along the sides of the carriage which provides a myriad of options to view the hive of activity that goes on in the everyday life of a Yangonian. The other benefit being able to purchase food and drinks off the vendors that jump on and off between stops as the doors between the tourist and local carriage was locked.
A ride on the circle train line is a must. You’ll get a better sense of place, see first hand the grunginess and poverty at distance at a slow moving pace and as usual, have varying degrees of interaction with locals. It’s not the most comfortable ride you’ll take in Myanmar, however it’s something you’ll eventually learn to cope with over time throughout the country and there’s a sense of charm and truth about the whole experience and the people who exchange smiles or conversations with that you’ll find endearing.