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Vendors inside the train

Life on the  Circular  Railway

13th January 2020

I am standing in front of the ticket counter its 8.30 am on a Monday morning this is the Central Railway station in Yangon, Myanmar. Surrounded by vast crowds of vendors and local commuters,  about to embark on a journey into the life of the local commuter. An exciting insight into the daily life of the inhabitants of Yangon's, Myanmar's largest city. The train travels at a leisurely pace around Yangon over a length of around 46 kilometers and stops at 38 stations. This journey is approximately 3-hour and the trip for just 200 kyat, which corresponds to roughly 0.12 €.

There is an official timetable, but platform 7 is almost empty at the official departure time. My paper ticket is written over with a thick marker pen and reads "10:05" - although the train should actually leave at 09:20. The young lady at the counter sells the ticket and gestures to let me know when the next train is due. So I wait for over an hour until the train finally arrives at the central station. A local vendor points to a train and tells me that this is my train, I hurry and get on to one of the wagons. It takes almost 30 minutes until we actually start to move. The rickety old train leaves the station rocking gently. 

The circular train arrives in the platform

Circular train arrives in the platform

The stops are very short, and hardly anyone waits when boarding and alighting until the train comes to a halt. You jump off, or you jump up. It would be best if you were quick and not for the faint-hearted. It's a  busy morning, young men and women get in to sell fruit inside the train. Vegetables or drinks, even live birds or big clay pots. Some will take their goods to the Danyingon station in the north prevalent market place for fresh vegetables. At some point, a conductor appears, looks briefly at my ticket smiles " ahhh first time in Yangoon very good good " then he crosses it out with a pen. About halfway along the route, I've reached a market on the northern outskirts of Yangon. From a distance, you can hear the shouting from the crowd. The train slows down, and the first bags fly through doors and windows. Shortly after that, hordes of people storm into the wagons to secure the places reserved by their bags. Literally, after a few seconds, the carriage is already completely overcrowded - and I find my self again amid hundreds of people. There are no fears of contact here, you sit together or stand it's your choice.  

Every corner is filled with various products in bags, sacks, canisters, and baskets. Little by little, people get off at different stops and take their belongings with them, and finally, you get some legroom back. The scorching sun heats up the wagon  I guess at least 36 degrees Celsius, the wind gives a little comfort, and it is bearable for the moment. After 3 hours I've reached the central train station again. Most of the passengers have gotten off somewhere on the way, and the train is almost empty. The little traveller has immersed in the everyday life of the local commuter.

Built by the British reminding the traveller of a bygone era of colonial times. Tomorrow the vendors will be back, and life will continue as it has done for the past 60 years. Perhaps with new dreams for a better tomorrow on the Yangon circular railway.

"Random Thoughts"
 20th Jan 2010

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