You are going to visit temples in Myanmar. And let’s face it, at some point during your time in Myanmar you will become “templed out” (this is a formal diagnosis). I began my trip to Myanmar in the former capital city of Yangon. Regardless of when you visit Yangon, I recommend focusing your tourist efforts away from temples. I mean, definitely go to the Shwedagon Pagoda; it’s awesome. But beyond that, there will be more temples in other places; I promise. In fact, there are 2200 in Bagan.
Ride the Circular Train
Although I didn’t spend much time in Yangon, this was by far my favorite activity I did. You can board the circular train from the beginning of the loop at Yangon Central Station, Platform 7. Check the hand written schedule for the next departure time. We ended up waiting about thirty minutes. You must buy your ticket prior to boarding the train and they will be checked on board. A ticket costs 200 kyat which is like 15 cents, making this one of the more affordable things to do, well, ever. Completing the entire loop takes roughly three hours. My friends and I boarded the train with a, “lets see how it goes” attitude. If we felt like getting off to explore, we would.
On the Train
We boarded the train with a bunch of locals. The train itself was adorned with Red Bull advertisements and graffiti, aka character. Once we started to feel how rickety the ride felt, we knew we would be in for a long three hours. We tried to make ourselves comfortable on the hard seats by removing our shoes, sitting Indian style, and facing the windows to obtain the optimal views.
There are 39 stops on this train and at almost every one food vendors will hop on board for a stop or two. This is like a lunch buffet where you do not have to get out of your seat. I recommend coming hungry. The food is so cheap and unique. There were fried donut type objects, and samosas, and samosas that got turned into a salad situation with cabbage and sauce. I unfortunately did not partake in this buffet as I was still recovering from my worst bout of food poisoning in my travel history. As a personal travel rule of thumb, I like to ensure at least one week lag time between food-born illnesses and wasn’t willing to risk it with my beloved street food.
My Favorite Part of the Ride
The train runs 20 times per day, so this next part surely cannot happen on every ride (we boarded around 10 am), but this was one of the most “local” experiences I have had on my travels. We had seen a lot of markets passing by:
And then, at one stop, out of nowhere, the market came on board the train. After about 60 seconds of pure hustle, people hopping through windows, and passing loads of herbs, fruits, and vegetables, there was no longer an inch of space left on the train.
The men and women who boarded proceeded to spend the remainder of their train ride making bundles of their produce, ensuring it was ready for sale. The food vendors still attempted to hop on the train, but it was near impossible, yet comical to see them attempt to reach each hungry customer. It was at this time that my friends and I decided to remain on the train for the duration of the loop. Well, because we genuinely couldn’t move.
Toward the end of the loop, a few of the locals began to disembark at each stop. Depending on where they were positioned on the train would determine how they would exit. Through the window? Use the door? Step over and on people and produce? Now that we had been familiarized with the process, we were there to help. We would take a break from snapping photos in order to hand over a bucket of mushrooms or bundles of chives. Eventually we arrived back where we started, nearly 30 miles later. Our ride was a local experience we couldn’t stop talking about. Between the views, the feast, the people, and the all around atmosphere, this is a ride you cannot miss!