One of the World’s Most Photogenic Train Journeys; The Yangon Circular Line
“I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it,” said the great travel writer Paul Theroux once. Just like Paul, we love train journeys. It is the most relaxing form of travel and there is no better perspective on the world than from a railway carriage. Riding the Yangon Circular Railway is on many travellers’ bucket lists and the “train ride to nowhere” has become one of the city’s top tourist attractions. It involves a 3-hour bumpy ride in non-air-conditioned rickety carriages, but if you want a truly fascinating and non-touristy travel adventure it doesn’t get better than this. If you ask us, it’s very high on the list of the greatest train journeys in the world.
The snail-pace journey – the train averages just 15 km/hour – covers a total distance of 46 km. The train runs full circle twenty times every day; clockwise or anti-clockwise the choice is yours, but all trains stop at each of the 39 stations along the way. Thousands of people use it every day to get to and from work or bring their vegetables to the many markets around town. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of Yangon’s local life. We hopped on the train with 60 local photographers from Featured Collectives and Instagrammers Myanmar and this is what they saw. Join us for a photo journey along the Yangon Circular Railway Line.
"This picture perfectly captures daily life in Yangon" says Chit Min Maung, one of the 50 young Burmese photographers taking part in the annual photo walk, also the founder of Featured Collectives. What must be Myanmar’s hottest group of street photographers is always on the lookout for off-the-beaten-track locations and inspiring theses for their popular annual meet-up and the Circular Line Train has that magic combination of stillness, speed, discovery, exploration, and adventure. This year the photo walk became a photo train ride.
The photographers meet at Yangon Central Station, cameras in hand, excited to go out and explore. Before they board Chit Moe shares some of his insider tips for street photography: “Look for a twist, don’t edit heavily and most importantly find interesting ways to manipulate the image from the context such as reflections and vantage points.”
Anna from iDiscover Academy gives some useful insights into what we can expect along the way. The iDiscover Circular Railway Guide highlights six out of the 39 neighbourboods that are worth a wander: the humble traditional Kyeemindaing, vibrant Mahlwagone, a great place to watch street life and street sports. Ahlone, home of the Karen community in Yangon, the vibrant student town of Hledan and the historic prison precinct Insein. To top it off, the remote village of Tadagale, is home to a golden pagoda and of course a bustling market.
Anna shows the map suggesting some hidden gems in each of these places, so we know which station to get off for the perfect shots. The friendly folks and supertalented photographers from Two Humans Travel, Ben and Tayla, who happen to be in town to shoot the Travel Good video also chip in their two cents on how to take a good photo. They also help to pick the winning shots of the day.
About the Circle Line
One the world’s most photogenic train journeys
As the train moves snail pace from station to station - the whole loop takes three hours - the pace of life in the cocoon of the train quietens. Old ladies sit peacefully with their plastic baskets, monks in colourful robes stare out of the window, young girls check their plaids and tanaka make-up in small mirrors, children play around and it’s almost impossible not to strike up a conversation with some complete strangers. The train becomes a colourful moving market as the journey progresses, at each station vendors rush to the platform with baskets with everything you didn’t know you needed. This train has been in operation since 1954, and still transports thousands of local commuters every day. The train journey is a mesmerising one, a true feast for the eye, even the locals discover neighbourhoods they otherwise would never have gone to.
- Buy tickets from Platform 7 of Yangon Central Station. The fare is 100 or 200 kyat depending on the distance.
- Trains ride in both directions. ‘R’ indicates eastbound at Yangon Central Station (anticlockwise) and ‘L’ is westbound (clockwise).
- The train starts running at 6.10 am with the last departure at 10pm, but the earliest full circle train leaves at 8.20am heading west (clockwise) and the last one departs 5.10pm.
- The whole circuit is 46 kilometres long with 39-stations and the snail pace journey takes about three hours
- The tracks are old, carriages are a bit dated and non-air-conditioned, so be prepared for a hot, bumpy ride and a great experience!
About Featured Collectives
Featured Collectives, founded by the visionary Chit Min Maung spearheaded the street photography scene in Myanmar. The go-to place for photography enthousiasts from around the city they host regular events, workshops and competitions.
Find them @FeaturedCollectives
About Two Humans Travel
Tayla is a multi-disciplinary storyteller with a journalism degree and a few awards under her belt. Top 5 Finalist for Best Travel Writer Australia, Tayla specialises in responsible adventure travel. Ben is all about the visuals. With a background in design, a masters in film + tv, he’s had work featured at Cannes Film Festival, directed international ad commercials and is a three-time finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize. Tayla and Ben worked with iDiscover to shoot Cathay Pacific's Travel Good campaign.
Find them at @twohumanstravel
Pre-Collegiate Program of Yangon
This route was created by students from the Pre-Collegiate Program, an international liberal art college in Yangon where students are challenged inside and outside of the classroom to become change-makers of tomorrow. Thanks to the passionate facilitators' Anna Livia Cullinan and Sara Candiracci. In loving memory of Bob Percival.www.facebook.com/precollegiateprogram
Jackie Lynn is originally from Magway. He moved to Yangon six years ago. His style is full of energy, beautiful light and character.www.facebook.com/jackietheillustrator