When in Yangon, do spare half a day to do this! Getting on the train in Yangon for just less than a S$1 to explore the metropolitan as well as the suburban areas. The wonder of getting on just one transport and let it bring you to cross the time and moment as we get to learn to appreciate simple things in life.
From my AirBNB house, I took a cab to the Yangon train station which is about 10 minutes away. The weather was too hot that I could not just walk outside so I gave in to the comfort of a taxi. The train station looks majestic from across the road and I managed to snapped a few pictures while bearing the heat!
Getting the tickets is the next important thing, the Yangon Circle Train is only sole specially at Track 7. Remember this very well! the main ticket counters will not be able to sell the tickets to you and since english is not commonly used there, it is helpful if you just tell them that you are looking for Track 7.
After finding my way to the tracks, there is a separate ticket counter just solely for Track 7 where I bought my tickets for 400kyats (about sgd 50 cents), then we wait. While waiting, there will be vendors who are selling drinks, snacks or other handmade stuff walking around carrying their goods. Each time a train pass by and made a stop they will hurriedly go up to peddle their product and get off before the train leaves.
When the train arrived, I just got onto the last cabin. Unknowingly my ticket was supposed to be for another cabin, but I was not prepared for what I was going to face during the later part of the journey.
As the train starts to move out and further from the metropolis, the scenery starts to change from tall buildings to low-rise house, till the view only has the paddy fields, farms and kampung houses.
The Yangon Circle Line will pass by a total of 35 stations before it makes a full circle and reach the start at Yangon Train Station.
With such a low-priced ticket, I do not expect for the moon, so even if the train cabin was non-airconditioned and it was a hard bench to sit on, I had no complain. In such a hot weather, I reminded myself that I was there on a trip but the locals they have to bear through this 3-4 months every year. Sitting in the train while it choo-choo down the tracks seem therapeutic suddenly, it definitely beat the chances that I will have to walk under the hot sun that day.
The surprise came for me halfway on the journey, we passed by a few market towns, then that caught me by total surprise. From a cabin that was peaceful and quiet suddenly became a roaring cabin, people were busy dragging and tossing big bags of produce up. Some dragging them up through the door while some chucked them through the window. In conclusion, it was a collective effort as some came on board to catch the bags while others pass from below. Estimatedly, the train stopped for about 2-3 minutes each time so the next few station it was an eye-opening reality as I see how the young and old, men and ladies get busy with transporting their items.
As the train leaves the station, I can see some of them opening up the bags and that is where they start to bundle the fresh vegetables together to pass the time or to me they are not wasting any time in fact. Being in Yangon for the first time, I was impressed by the fresh produce that they sell at the market, seeing how they picked and packed the vegetables make me realised how much effort was placed into selection. I saw one boy bundling up some okras, he measured each stick to match equally as best as he can and then tossing the unwanted ones into another bag. Since I can’t understand burmese, I saw a girl looking at a plastic sack full of some green veges which I can’t name it and I imagine her commenting “oh my gawd, look at the fresh vegetables that I got a good price today”. It is not that I want to joke about the lifestyle but I believe that be it in Singapore or Myanmar, we are all the same. We shop, we bargain, we buy and we eat! But the difference would have to be the convenience that we have in Singapore. Transporting items from the market, be it the wholesaler or my grocery shopping. We can just drive down to the market, get what we want and then drive home. Simple!
But it does not work like that here. For a meager price, the amount of manual work to be done is tremendous. One amazing pair that I saw transporting the product was an old lady in her 60s and probably her grandchild in her teens, lugging about 5-6 big bags of vegetables!
As the crowd starts to slowly get off the train at their station, there was nothing else that went through my mind apart from the fact that I am having a good life in Singapore. There is nothing worth complaining about as well. We used to say: that times are different now from our parents or grandparents last time so quality of problems are also different that is why it is valid for us to complain still. Now looking at countries which have such suburban or rural life, made me realise even more that there are bigger problems than what we are facing in our comfortable lives. Take a step back and if just for one moment, we channel that power of complaining to do something meaningful, each one of us will be able to make a difference somehow. It just need to start.
As I complete the 35 stations, the train rolled to a close back to Yangon Train Station where I got out, pass my tickets to the train master and left the place with an indebted heart. Just a simple train ride but plenty of lessons which I get to see with my own eyes.
When you are planning to come Myanmar, Yangon anytime soon do include this into your itinerary! let me assure you that it will be worth the time and effort to take.
Below is a summary of how you can take the Yangon Circle train and what to take note of:
1- Upon reaching Yangon Train Station, Kun Chan Rd, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). Head down to Track 7.
2- Buy your Yangon Circle Line tickets from the counter. The train is non-airconditioned and it is going to be filled with locals.
3- The tickets that you bought which are meant for tourist will entitle you to the first cabin. As I mentioned earlier, me and 2 other tourists got into the last cabin which was not for us as we paid more. But it was all worth it for me and I didn’t regret it at all.
4- You can get down at any station along the way to get some food or snacks or even snapped some pictures. The whole circle will take about 3 hours in order to get some stretches done, you can just get off any station and then hop back on when the next train comes.
5- There will be snack or souvenir peddler coming up each station if you would like to buy their stuff.
6- Always keep your stuff in your live of view, just for safety sake.
7- Enjoy the journey!
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