Circle train around Yangon

Our first day in Yangon was exhausting, the heat was almost unbearable. We’d arrived very early in the morning and our room wasn’t ready to check in until 2pm. So we went for breakfast and then wandered around the city, feeling the atmosphere of the different districts: Indian town, China town (which still wore the colourful decorations of Chinese new year), the market area, main square…

Yangon is the biggest city of Myanmar, with 4.3 million habitants. Actually it was the country’s capital until 2006, until the government migrated to the newer city of Naypidwa. The centre is walk-able, but the city’s outskirts spreads for many kilometres.

On our second day, we jumped on the local circle train for the afternoon. Also called the circular train, departing from central station’s platform 7, it is a 45 kilometres round trip on a bumpy old railway around the city. It takes 3 hours to complete the loop without getting off the old train at one of the 39 stations. If one may think it is a very odd activity to sit on a train for 3hours and come back where it departed, it is actually a great experience that give a taste of locals real life. Now, it is becoming a bit of a touristic attraction as well, we weren’t the only foreigners on the train, but the experience still remains very authentic. It is after all the favourite mean of transport for “Yangonese”.

As the train arrived at the railway’s platform, there was moment of agitation during which many people got off while the train was still slowing down into the station. There were people loading and unloading all kind of merchandise. We had only a few seconds to jump on board, together with the rest of the local crowd. The first hour around the circular tracks was busy. I managed to make myself a spot sitting next to two young Burmese girls, but Adrien had to stand for almost the first half of the ride. There were people passing through the train, selling all kind of food. Ice creams where the most successful. All windows and doors were open which provided with a nice warm breeze.

Eventually, as we reached a more rural area, the train emptied and soon we were only about 10 people left in our car. We could enjoy the countryside and witness local daily life taking place right before our eyes.

As we approached the centree, the train filled up again and it was late afternoon when we reached central station. We quickly abandoned the idea of walking to the Shwedagon Pagoda and decided to stopped for a drink instead. After walking or a bit and getting lost in a district, we only found the terrace of a nice hotel. luxurious, modern, full of foreigners, it was an almost uncomfortable contrast to the 3 hours we had just spent…

For only 120 kiat per person, it is an activity we can only recommend to those travelling to the big city of Yangon. Take some extra water with you but drink cautiously if like me you have SBS (Small Blader syndrome) as there are no toilet on the train…

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