LOCAL LIFE ON THE YANGON CIRCULAR RAILWAY
Images and Article by Tania Chatterjee – requesting all readers to share the blog extensively, great place to visit after corona pandemic
Yangon circular railway is the best place to know about the lives of semi-urban populace. Yangon circular railway will help you experience the local neighborhood, small town and local market. It is a 100 year old album unfolding showing the old and new world of Yangon.
History of Yangon Circular Railway
Yangon Central Railway Station is Myanmar’s largest train station, built by the British in 1877. Similarly the Yangon Circular Railway was built during the colonial times dated back in 1954. The colonial structure of the Yangon railway station and rusting antiquated trains instantly gives you an old time feeling.
Yangon Circular Railway serves the larger Yangon metropolitan area. It is the only local commuter rail network. Till date it is operated by the government authority Myanmar Railways. The circular railway covers a large section of Yangon. It covers a total distance of 45.9 kilometres. Yangon circular railway has 39 stations connecting the suburban area to the city.
One complete loop of the circular railway takes 3 hours to complete. The railway is highly used by lower and middle income travellers because the tickets are cheap. Yangon circular railway daily commutes 100,000 to 150,000 passengers. The tracks and the wagons are old and therefore require very careful attention while handling.
Yangon Circular Railway – best train timing
The circular train makes the loop in right or left, i.e. either clockwise or anti-clockwise. The left and the right direction of the train makes no difference for visitors. The first train starts at 6.10 am and the last train leaves Yangon central station at 5.10 pm. You need to reach the platform well ahead in time because the line for ticket can be long for ticket. There is no designated platform, so shifting from one another is quite common. There are two tracks with 15 daily departures. Some trains do not do the full circle also.
The best time for photographers is to take the early morning trains. The 6 am train gives you an opportunity to see the sellers carry their wares to the market. The next 8 am train gives you a chance to see school children and office goers. The morning train also gives you an opportunity to capture the soft sunlight and fresh faces with tangkha. I recommend the morning train because Myanmar is most active at dawn.
Yangon Circular Railway – your ride
If you are looking for a quick and real introduction of capital city of Yangon, Myanmar, simply hop on the Yangon Circular train. During the nostalgic train ride around the city, you will witness a close up of the daily life of the Burmese people. The train ride is also a chance to capture some beautiful people and street images. A trip on the Yangon circular railway is like taking a journey back into Myanmar’s past.
The train as of 2019 did not have air conditioned coaches. The seating arrangement is also very basic. To avoid the Yangon heat it is best to take the morning train. The ticket allows unlimited hop-on, hop-off facility. So you can hop-off to a busy station for some photo-shoot and enjoy the place.
Yangon circular train vendors
Circular train is far cheaper than any other public transport; the train is the transportation choice for many locals taking their wares to market. The street vendors are almost everywhere along the circular railway with their various range of interesting products. People selling all kinds of fruits, vegetables and food started coming through with their big baskets. They run their daily businesses from the train to the platform of all the stations. One after the other, each of them tried to gain as many customers as possible. The circular train in Yangon turned into an open noisy moving market where people happily did their groceries.
The slow moving train runs through urban, suburban and rural areas. Apart from all the wonderful urban and rural sites you see outside of the window, inside the train is just equally entertaining. Inside the train you see the bustling activities of daily commuters and hawkers. You can buy a nice breakfast or a sumptuous meal inside the train. Myanmar is also known for its great coffee, you can have a good chance to a strong hot cuppa of coffee. Myanmar is known for large production of commodity coffee, but slowly they are shifting towards specialty coffee.
The trains are clean and people very friendly. The trains do not have a toilet, so you depend on the available toilets in the station. Passengers also need to carry their own bottle of water or wait for the next station to get bottled water.
Value addition in the train
Another very interesting observation in the train is the sort and packing of their wares by the vendors. You can observe that vegetable vendors are sorting the beans and tomatoes in nice packages. The sorting helps to increase the value of their vegetable. You can observe that some of the vendors also cleaned the fruits with a cloth to make them look shiny and fresh.
The Danyingon Station
The Danyingon Station is the busiest and most interesting stations along the circular railway. The station is located on the north of the circular line; it is kind of mid-way station in the circular train. There is no such platform in the station; it’s seems that the train suddenly enters to a vegetable wholesale market and stops in middle of people and vegetables. It’s another wonderful experience to witness that wholesalers buying there large quantity of vegetable within few minutes. Within a matter of few seconds all the purchased items are loaded on the train. In the market you can find so many various kinds of fruits and vegetables at highly competitive pricing. The market is an excellent opportunity for the photographers.
Myanmar is one of the most religious Buddhist countries in the world. It is very common to see the monks and the nuns on the street or in public transports. Monks and nuns are treated very respectfully. If requested with sincere politeness it is not difficult to ask the monks for some good shots and frames.
The men, women and kids are extremely friendly despite the language barrier and it’s interesting to interact with them and observe their daily routine. They will make their best effort to interact with you. The younger generation will be very happy to speak English with you; this is a great way to learn about their lives and aspirations. During my travel I interacted with an aspiring singer, an actress and few young men and women working in hospitality.
The long and slow journey of circular train was quite memorable because it allows taking a quick look into the local life in Yangon. It provides a good opportunity to mingle with the friendly locals and has great scope of street photography. Myanmar is a kid loving country; the children are very welcoming and photogenic. I would certainly recommend taking the permission of the parents and the guardian before clicking pictures of children.
If you are interested, to join my Myanmar Photography Tour, visit FOTORBIT WORKSHOPS for updates.
Follow me on Instagram to get my latest updates