Train Journeys – Yangon Circular Railway
The final ‘Train Journeys’ from Myanmar. Sorry, meant to have this up months ago but the long queue of things I needed to edit just didn’t allow me time to do the video until this week! So, it was more than a year ago now that I took this trip – seems rather strange to think that!
Yangon isn’t that big a city, well not when you take this train trip. The trip is a good three hours long if you want to do a full loop from Yangon Central Railway Station back to the station of the same name, but it’s not all in built up or suburban areas, in fact, most of it is in rural or semi-rural surrounds. So the beauty of the journey is the insight it gives the visitor into the city that used to be the capital of Myanmar. Or should I say Burma?
Yangon Central is actually a pretty grand station, with dozens of platforms I entered from the back entrance and exited after my journey on the far side which is much grander. It was easy to enter from the bridge and the back or rear of the station, the last few platforms, is where you take the train from.
Now, in Myanmar you’ll want a foreigner ticket. I’m not sure how much the locals are paying, but with the foreigner ticket only being 200 kyat and the US dollar as of 29/3/2016 being 1200 kyats, it’s coming in at less than twenty cents. Presumably locals pay less, so it’s a pretty good bargain.
The carriages are probably old. but even outside has had a sparkling transformation, and unlike the other Burmese trains I took, the insides have been refurbished in the last few years and are pretty polished, with seats mostly facing inwards, posters advertising phone deals and the like, and fans to keep you cool. Having said that, the fans weren’t so great – I was sitting nearby the only working one in my carriage.
I was with two friends and we took the back carriage so we had the guard on the carriage who hopped in and out at stations and waved the green flag. He had a large green box, and at every station would receive a leather satchel which he would document and put in the big green box, presumably the stations’ takings. The satchels weren’t full or heavy, and with the prices being what they were, I doubt there was any substantial sum in the box by the end of the journey.
The train moved off a little late, and we were on our way. Well the stations were interesting, lots of life on them, people with little stalls and the like. The line was dropped below the city a little so it was hard to see the first section, but when we levelled off and rose to ground level we were passing large apartment buildings. The level crossings were very busy too, which was interesting.
Inside the carriage people lugged huge bags of who knows what but we thought it was probably fertilizer or some sort of dirt. Some bags definitely had fish in them though, the smell was quite unmistakable and they leaked water!
Vendors hopped on and off the train too, selling fruit, nuts, miscellaneous items and perhaps the most interesting was the man selling cigarettes. He had the tobacco and papers in a tray and he was rolling them for the customers then and there! Then there was the security guard who play fought with the train guard, and lots of locals who knew each other chatting and waving and catching up. The train would be pretty quiet, then packed to the hilt, then would empty again as the three hours rolled along.
Outside we were soon in farmland, seeing people hoeing and digging, moving animals around. Only 30 minutes from the centre of town on a train that didn’t go fast and made lots of stops! Then there were people playing volleyball with their feet!
Others trains passed going the other direction and people waved – they seemed even more packed than the train we were on. We’d taken the 230pm (ish) train, which worked out brilliantly because as the train rolled back into the Yangon Central Station, the sun was setting. What an amazing, worthwhile three hours it had been! I learnt more about Yangon in those three hours than probably the rest of the three days I was there.
And now, here is the short video I made of the trip!
Thanks for reading – have you taken this or a similar train before? Please do comment! May the Journey Never End!