If you’re ever in Yangon, you will always be asked by fellow travellers if you have taken the circle train. As it sounds it is a train, on a circular route, so ultimately you can just stay in the same place the whole time and get off where you originally got on. Costing a minimal 200 kyat or approximately $0.15 USD for a three hour journey it is pretty good value.
To get there make your way to Yangon Central Railway Station and head down to platform 6 & 7. Here you will find a ticket counter where you can purchase your ticket and find out when the train is departing. Though, keep in mind these departure times are extremely approximate and everything here always seem to be delayed. Our train was meant to arrive at 1.40pm and it didn’t get there until 2pm. Though, don’t worry too much as the train runs on an hourly schedule so you should come across one eventually.
After you purchase your tickets hang around the ticket counter. This is where they ‘collect’ all the foreigners and once the circle train arrives they will walk you over to it. Just because you are standing on platform 6 & 7 does not mean that is where the train will arrive. We had to do a mad dash across the tracks to another platform to catch the train.
Dress in light clothing as it will be extremely hot. Even though the ceiling will have oscillating fans and the train itself does not have glass over the windows it just circulates hot air. The train will either go clockwise or counter clockwise. I am not too sure what difference it makes, but for our trip we went counter clockwise.
While on board the train you will see a more agricultural side of life for the Yangon local. With people constantly walking up and down the carriages you will have plenty of opportunities to purchase food. Though, if nothing there takes your fancy one of the stops also happens to be a market. It is pretty easy to tell when you have arrived as the train stops literally right in the market. With locals and their stalls set up along the tracks they are selling everything from fruit and vegetables to clothing and toys. If you are thinking about getting off on this stop just be aware that the next train will be in an hour. So, you may have to wonder around killing time for a bit.
Sometimes you will also have to change trains at this stop. This was the case while I was on the train. It stopped at the market station for a good half an hour, filled up with locals, then they announced (not in English) that everyone needed to change trains. Luckily a lovely Burmese lady assisted a group of us foreigners. Letting us know the situation and even saving a seat on the replacement train.
If after a couple hours if the bumpy tracks, the noise and the heat are becoming too much just jump off and catch a taxi or a rickshaw back to Downtown Yangon. Your ticket allows you to jump on and off the train at various stops. There are plenty teashops around which gives plenty of chances to converse with locals.
While in Myanmar I heard very mixed reports on whether the Yangon Circle Train was worth doing. The three hours is a long time, especially if you get delayed and need to switch trains. Our trip was nearly four hours. Though costing only $0.15USD it is a good way to kill a free afternoon. Just be prepared for a long trip on a hard seat.
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