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Riding the Circle Train around Yangon


While in Yangon, one of the best ways to see the area surrounding the city is to hop on the train that runs a loop around the city proper. I love public transit anyway because you’re exposed to what a city is like day to day, and you get to people watch.

I don’t know what I expected on the train ride, but I certainly got a feel for the people and the culture throughout the duration of the 3 hour ride.

As we approached platform 6 and 7, we were ushered into a ticket office and an official looking ticket was issued after we handed over our crisp clean $1 bill. While we waited for the train to arrive we were entertained by an adorable little girl and her even littler sister who high fived us and hopscotched and showed us their Gangnam Style abilities.


Initially the train was packed, but as the train moved on away from the city, it began to empty out. As I effectively emptied my camera batteries by photographing the train, landscape and stations we passed, Eira set to filling her pocket sketchbook with quick drawings of people on the train. Initially I had hoped that we could hop on and off and visit the towns around the stations, and while you’re allowed to do just that and make an entire day of it, we had a bus to catch that evening and opted for a walk home and some dinner in a tea house. So we stayed put, sketching, watching, photographing the scenes and sharing cigarettes out the window with the old man sat next to us.


I’m glad that the train was simple benches along each side instead of sections of seats because it was much more conducive to creeping everyone on our car.

As we reached one station in the country there was a giant commotion as the car emptied out and people started chucking parcels of produce through the window. Bags upon bags of Chinese kale, holy basil, chilli peppers, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, and anything that grows in the countryside around Yangon were hoisted through windows and settled anywhere there was space. As the farmers themselves jumped on the now moving train and organized their packages the security guard, who had previously been oblivious to passengers and tickets, now went around collecting fees for all the extra parcels from the newly boarded.


It was after this that the atmosphere on the train changed. It had started out as a packed commuter train, but was now a joke-filled little community. As the farmers and produce sellers organized their product they teased each other, shared leaf-rolled cigarettes and bettle nut and dozed off cross-legged facing the window.


Feeling like part of a community, we disembarked back in Yangon proper and wandered around until we met a couple ladies who wished us a happy Easter and chatted with us for a bit before leading us to a tea shop employed entirely with boys under 17 years old for a delicious lunch of pasada’s.