The Yangon Circular Railway

We left Myanmar around four weeks ago and yet the sights and sounds are still fresh in my mind. I’m not sure that I’ve been to a country like it — a place where a ten-minute walk will land you with hundreds of smiles and friendly nods from the locals. Even the more shy or reserved people’s stares will turn into smiles if you initiate the gesture.

On our first full day in Yangon, we decided to take the famous Circular Railway — a three-hour, seventeen-cent journey around the outskirts of the city. Having read several blog posts and reviews the night before, it seems that it’s not for everyone, with some suggesting that the last hour can really drag. I didn’t find this to be the case at all — so much so that I contemplated doing it all again on our return to Yangon two weeks later. A slight case of food poisoning and a night bus put an end to that idea, but I would definitely do so, should I ever return to Myanmar.

The Circular Railway is something that you do if you want to get an insight into daily life in Yangon. On one hand, the activity taking place outside the train — people working, playing draughts or chinlone, tending crops and walking along the tracks — is easily enough to keep you occupied.

However, the action inside the train is also a sight to behold, with people transporting produce to and from the markets scattered around the city. Fellow passengers help to load and unload the goods as the train only stops for a few seconds at some stations. People selling snacks and water are also commonplace, but one vendor took things to the next level by carrying a portable restaurant on his shoulders and preparing meals for people in the aisle.

The train ride is also a great way to interact with the locals, with many people keen to practice their English. Others are simply happy to try and let you know about some upcoming sights — I eventually worked out that there would be some working cattle coming up on the right, after first answering my new friend that no, I don’t play tennis…

After getting off at Yangon Central, where we had started the journey three hours earlier, we walked the ten minutes or so to the 999 Shan Noodle House on 34th Street. While eating a $1 bowl of some of the best noodles you will find, I wondered whether any of the ingredients had also taken the Circular Line earlier that day!