20 Oct One of the world’s most photogenic train journeys; the Yangon Circle Train in Myanmar
“Experience the true essence of local life in Yangon”, “A window into the daily routine of Myanmar people”, “Best way to see Burmese life”…. A journey on the Yangon Circle Train has quickly become one of the highlights on any traveller’s itinerary, and we couldn’t agree more! This 46km long journey loops around the whole city and takes you through Yangon’s many unique neighbourhoods and offers intimate glimpse in the local life of Myanmar’s old capital. Join the journey of 50 passionate local photographers as they hopped on the train for hot, sweaty and bumpy ride as they capture local life and share their tips for some great street photography.
By Anna Livia Cullinan
Young local photographers take to the streets
‘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. 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, adventure. This year the photo walk became a photo train ride.
We meet the Yangon Central Station, cameras in hand, excited to go out and explore. Before we 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 also gives us some useful insights into what we can expect along the way. Their Circular Railway Guide highlights six out of the 39 neighbourboods that are worth a wander: the humble traditional neighbourhood of 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, home to a golden pagodas and off course a bustling market. Anna shows us the guide’s app with some of the hidden gems in each of these places, so we know which station to get off for the perfect shots.
“The Circular Railway Line is an intimate window into the daily routine of Myanmar people” – Chit Min Maung, founder Featured Collectives
Yangon’s young street photographers heading to the Central Station. Photo by Chit Moe.
This picture perfectly captures daily lives in Yangon’, getting off the train longyi style. Photo by Chit Moe
The busy Yangon pace of life in the cocoon of the train quietens. Photo by Chit Moe
A streak of morning light at Hledan station. Photo by Chit Moe
Find out more about the Circular Line Train and iDiscover’s unique community curative process here
“Ahlone is lovely and quiet. I am surprised that it’s only 30 mins from Central. It’s a new experience” – Kitty, local photographer
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. Even for us the train journey is a mesmerising one, a true feast for the eye. We explore neighbourhoods that we otherwise would never have gone to. “Ahlone is lovely and quiet. I am surprised that it’s only 30 mins from Central. It’s a new experience for me” says Kitty, one of the young photographers.
Capturing the essence of train travel
Three hot and sweaty, but creative hours later, we met at the cool balcony space of Impact Hub Yangon where we have cold drinks and a projector to share our photos and stories of a great day. There are prizes for the best photos. Min Eain Thoon is the winner with a shot that beautifully capturing the evening light at the Yangon Train Station. Gabriel Latt is runner up with another evening shot of a last passenger at an empty station, a photo with great use of light and contrast. Third place is for Can Htoo Aung with an explosion of colour and movement capturing so well the essence of train travel in Myanmar. Thin Myat Nyo receives an honourable mention for beautiful intimate picture of a betel nut seller.
Hop on and make Yangon’s Circular Line train your street photographers’ muse!
Yangon’s young local photographers anxiously wait as judges review the entries. Photo by: Zarni
This shot that captures the evening light at the Yangon Train Station wins first prize for street photography. Photo by Min Eant Thoon
Good use of light and contrast in this evening shot of an empty station, the runner-up. Photo: Gabriel Latt
An explosion of colour and movement capturing the essence of train travel in Myanmar wins third prize. Photo by Can Htoo Aung
Honourable mention for this intimate shot of a betel nut seller by Thin Myat Noe
The four winners with Featured Collectives founder Chit Min Maung. Photo by Zarni
Some Yangon Circle Train travel tips
Hop on and make Yangon’s Circular Line train your street photographers’ muse! Some quick facts and out trips for a perfect train ride:
- Buy tickets from Platform 7 of Yangon Central Station. The fare is 100 or 200 kyat depending on 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.
- Whole circuit is 46 kilometers long with 39-stations and the snail pace journey takes about three hours
- The railway opened for service in 1954 and still has an operational fleet of 200 coaches on double track. The service runs 20 times a day.
- 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!
Made a great photo?
Featured Collectives would love to hear from you. Simply post your best shot through their website. Or post on your social media accounts with the #iDiscoverCircularLineTrain.
Learn more about Featured Collectives, the street photography scene in Myanmar and its founder, the visionary Chit Min Maung at http://www.featuredcollectives.com/
Want to go travel like a local on the Yangon Circle Train?
The Circular Railway Guide is one of the six handcrafted itineraries in the iDiscover Yangon Neighbourhood Guide, buy a set for just kyat 12,000 at Hla Day or order a copy online. The guide comes with a free app with GPS maps and in-depth stories on each site.
Guest curator Myanmar – creative spirit & talented urban designer
Anna Livia Cullinan is originally from Ireland, grew up in the US, studied in the UK and now calls Myanmar home. Many years in film industry have creatively shaped her mind until she was ready to venture out in the big world. Anna Livia has found her muse in vibrant and mystical Yangon.
Anna Livia’s favourite spot in Yangon: breakfast in a local teashop in the Indian Quarter