Catching the “Circle Line” trains in Yangon
One of the most beautiful experiences not to be missed in Yangon is to visit the Railway station – a structure built in traditional Burmese architectural style, landmark building since 1996 – and have a ride on the old train. There is an urban railroad line, better known as ”Circle Line”, which begins and ends at Yangon Central Railway Station. It has several departures a day going clockwise and anti-clockwise, passing through the city, its suburban areas and satellites towns.
Travelling in the old carriages, without doors and glass at windows, you will find all types of commuters, students, workers, traders, monks and families with children. The old diesel train snorts and travels very slowly while his carriages swing to the right and the left. Along the railway, you can see the old rundown houses of the city, children playing, workers, food vendors and any local life slice.
Completing the circle line takes about three hours, it runs between 6.10 and 17.10 and not all the trains complete the whole ride. With no doubt, the best time to have a trip is as early as you can, since Yangon life is most active just after dawn. When you are ready to go to the next spot that Yangon has to offer, you can always get off at any stops and take a taxi heading to your next visit.
We walk to Yangon Railway Station early in the morning while the streets of the city are already congested with hundreds of noisy cars. The building is huge, and after visiting the crowded main hall, we head straight to platforms 6-7 from where the ”circle line” trains arrive and depart. Here there’s a stationmaster inside a small booth, halfway down the platform, where we buy our ticket, getting instructions about the line and on how to board.
The train approaches very slowly while a black smoke column comes out from the diesel locomotive. We jump quickly on the carriage with many Burmese people getting a seat on the ‘’uncomfortable‘’ tough wood benches near the window. Along with the platforms some women sell food and drinks for travellers, railroad workers who patch up the line here and there, students holding books and families with children. There are no tourists on the train, just youth chatting, older adults resting and mums holding babies. Sometimes our sights cross each others receiving back a big smile. At each station is a “race”. After approaching, the train stops just for few seconds and the vendors are ready to hop on and off very quickly trying to sell boiled peanuts, eggs, fruit and traditional food.
It’s very usual to see people catching the train with a jump while we are already moving since the train runs as fast as a turtle. As the old carriages move from side to side, which seems to be in the middle of the rough sea, the rundown houses of the city and its inhabitants pass by us. We feel like to be in the past, a distant past where the time looks like to be stopped. After more than 1 hour ride, we get off at Thamine Railway Station taking a taxi to go back to the city centre with still in our thoughts a fantastic genuine experience.
Need to know
The trains usually depart from platform 7. There is a small booth along with the platform with a stationmaster where you can buy your ticket for a few kyats and ask all the information you need. You can easily get to the Railways station catching a taxi.
If you need to buy a ticket to other Myanmar destinations, you can use the 12go.asia.com search engine, one of the best web platforms to move around Asia. You can usually check and book the means of transport within 7/10 days.
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Circle line map :