A couple weekends ago we decided to give the Circle Line a ride and we headed off with our friends Sharon, Steven and their two kids, Hazel and Kean. When we arrived at the station we had a bit of difficulty finding where to buy tickets, after going through the wrong entrance then standing in the wrong line for 15 minutes, a kind station worker pointed us in the right direction and soon we were on platform 7 waiting at the correct counter. The ticket seller was very helpful and asked if we wanted to take the “aircon” train or the “local” train. We had heard of these options and knew that the “local” train would give us more of an authentic experience so we chose that one without hesitation. We were told by many different sources that we (as foreigners) would need a crisp $1 bill (usd) as fare for the ride. This, luckily, is no longer the case – seriously, who carries around crisp $1 usd bills?? We only paid 200 kyat a piece, which is about $0.20 usd for the ride.
After getting our tickets we waited on the large platform for about 20 minutes until the man who helped us came to show us to our train that had just arrived. We happily jumped on and spread out on the long benches that lined the whole length of the train. The benches were right under the windows facing each other leaving a large aisle in the middle. We weren’t waiting long before the train wheels began slowly turning, creaking with age.
The train pulled out of the station and began a steady “clunk, clunk” rhythm as it meandered on the tracks. Yangon has less than a handful of high-rises making it difficult to use landmarks as notes of where you are in the city, so starting almost immediately after we left the station and lasting the whole ride it was impossible to tell which area of the city we were in. As we got used to the steady pace of the slow-moving train, we were happy to sit back and stair out the windows to gaze as the town passed by.
There were no big sights to see or exciting events, instead we watched the day to day lives of the local people. Often we saw people crossing the tracks or waiting on the road for the train to pass by. It was an echo of what we see in the residential neighborhood that my school is in. After only a few minutes we pulled up to the first stop. A simple station marked by a long bench on either side of the tracks and a walking bridge that spread over the top to connect the sides. There was a quite bustling of people moving around, getting on or off, hurry to their next destination. The train only stopped for a few minutes before setting off again.
Like most other times when we walk around town, we got constant stares from people all around us. Especially being with the children caused us to get a lot of attention (Myanmar people just LOVE kids!). I don’t mind it very much. I feel like I stare at them enough they have the right to be curious and stare back at me. The best part is that whenever I see children staring at me I figured out that if I smile and wave I will always get the same back. Then if they see my camera they usually will make a pose of some sort. It’s great! At one point while I was walking down to the other end of the train I noticed a local trying to get a picture of me on his phone so I stopped and let him take one then followed suit and took my own of him. It actually makes me feel like a celebrity.
Before long the scenery changed from buildings to neighborhoods, from neighborhoods to houses, houses to scattered structures, scattered structures to just fields. This was the first time that we had seen any sort of country setting in Yangon and it was a welcomed scene. We enjoyed the greenery before the train made the loop and started heading back into town.
There were so many interesting people on and around the train. At one point a man came and sat next to us with a wicker basket that was latched at the handles. He was there for a good half an hour and when he stood up to leave he grabbed his bag and it gave a loud quack – we hadn’t even noticed that there was a live duck in the bag!! He was not the only one to bring poultry on the train, there was also a man carrying two large buckets that ended up being filled with chickens!
After about two hours of riding we were pretty hungry and I was so excited when we stopped and some people selling snacks got on board. I hurried down half of the train to catch them and buy the snacks. One person was selling something similar to Chinese fried noodles but in one big piece – it was tasty. The other person was selling what turned out to be a thinly fried tofu that was cut up into bit sized pieces and served with spicy sauce. I didn’t really care for that one but Steven and Sharon, who are both vegetarians, loved it!
Three hours after we left the station we rounded back into downtown. I managed to guestimate the stops and we hopped off the one right before the large station which landed us in the heart of Bogyoke market – exactly where we were headed. All in all it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning, calm and slow paced. This was a great way to get out of the hustle and bustle and see the city from a different point of view.