Circle Again: Riding the Yangon Circle Line


Besides Translink in Northern Ireland who are essentially thieving scum, I like trains. It’s the only way I travel in Tokyo, and it’s a good chance to get a feel for the layout of any city. I once took a sweaty/stinky sleeper train from Bangkok to Chang Mai and was considering doing another long-haul journey in Myanmar. After a bit of research though, I found out the journey was to take 18 hours which would have eaten too much into my trip. Not only that, but money from the fare goes directly to the government which is something you definitely want to try and avoid.

As a compromise, the Circle Line in Yangon provided me with the perfect opportunity to mix with the locals and see what the suburbs of Yangon looked like. The three-hour journey hugs the main road for a while then breaks off through fields and dusty plains. The scenery is rustic, but it’s what goes on inside the train that’s most interesting: people hopping on and off at random backwater villages, carrying huge earthenware pots and going about their daily life. The women are caked in Thanaka makeup and the black-toothed men are chewing betel nuts, spitting the vibrant red liquid out the windows. As a foreigner, you’ll be stared at. A group of pissed men sat beside me and tried to make me eat their cold fish curry. I graciously declined.

After 90 ass-pulverising minutes I jumped off at a random stop and the train chugged off into the distance. As I stood there covered in dust I suddenly realised I had no idea where I was, I was stuck miles outside Yangon in the middle of nowhere. Stray dogs sniffed around me and girls who I made eye contact with smiled shyly then ran away laughing. I walked up and down the village road wearing a ridiculous Dr Dre tshirt while people waved and said hello.

Then I remembered one thing: it was Christmas morning.


Yangon Train Station is a pretty grand affair


The mother of this family insisted I took their photo. She could speak a bit of English so I chatted to her for a while. Before I knew it she excitedly started waving, shouting that my train was leaving. I had to run down the platform and jump onto the train like something out of a movie. First time for everything.


This guy jumped off when the train was doing about 20mph…


Goodbye train. Hello “where the hell am I?”


The long walk home





Yangon Train Station is just north of the Sule Paya. The Circle Line departs from platforms 6 & 7 and there’s a little booth in the middle of the platform where foreigners can buy tickets, $1. Due to absurd Burmese regulations regarding tourists you’ll need your passport to buy a ticket. The journey takes 3 hours and it’s pretty bumpy, on a hard wooden seat. Bring water with you and use the bathroom before you go – no chance once you start moving! If you don’t fancy staying on board for the full 3 hours, jump off like I did and you’ll be able to find a taxi to take you back to town.


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