31 Jul 2014

Yangon Circular Railway

Wandering around the streets of Yangon is an incredibly rewarding experience for the observer and photographer, since there are countless opportunities to capture slices of life everywhere you go, as I described in my previous 2 posts (monochrome scenes here, and color scenes here); however, there is more to Yangon than just street life. I heard from two friends that had visited the city a few months earlier, that there was another way of getting to see the local people and their ways of life from within that didn't involve walking at all; I was extremely curious to discover this place that promised to put me in touch with the locals at a more intimate level, and without even moving a muscle! Not that I doubted their words, but that was something I had to see for myself, so next morning we woke up early and walked to Yangon Central Railway Station, ready to jump on to the next train leaving.

Misleading lethargy, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Preparations, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Awaiting, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The lonely photographer's journey, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Family trip, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
After purchasing a very cheap ticket, we waited for a few minutes, walking up and down the busy platform, trying to get a feel for the place, until the train finally came. Hordes of people got off the old carriages, since this was the last (and first) stop, so the train became momentarily empty, but as soon as the last passenger disembarked, another crowd of people (this time smaller in number) started getting on the coaches, looking for a bit of free bench where sitting. We were lucky to sit by a window and, as our carriage was not that occupied yet and there was nothing of much interest inside the train, I spent the first minutes looking through the window, gradually but clearly noticing how the blocks of houses, bridges and traffic were steadily diminishing, while rice fields and puddles, small villages and shacks became dominant. The city had led us to the countryside.

The curve, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Free crossing, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Reload, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Home at the track's edge, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Hopes and bags, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Green hamlet, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The Circular Railway is Yangon's main way of transportation, since it is the cheapest and also because it links the city center with the surrounding, countryside areas, forming a loop of 45 km across 39 stations; thus in every station we stopped at (and these stops varied from mere seconds to roughly a minute) more and more people got on the train, bringing along multiple goods, most of them vegetables and fruits, in order to sell them at the street markets that populate the city. Our coach was no longer a quiet place, and only now I understood the words of my friends when they talked about 'intimacy', since the carriage was getting so crowded that there was hardly any space left to move your legs, and it was unavoidable to be sitting arm to arm, foot to foot, with everybody else around you.

Travel friendship, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Myanmar donuts, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Senior dealer, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Market on the move, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Haste, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
I do not speak any Burmese, so my interactions with the locals were limited to glances, smiles, some body language and other basic gestures, but being right there, in the middle of a local, busy crowd going ahead with their own lives, made me feel so at ease! They didn't pay much attention to me and my camera after some first curious seconds, but they were always considerate and friendly, despite the language barriers. Nevertheless, there was something else that immediately grabbed my attention and, once it did, it just didn't let go of me anymore, for it totally robbed my focus: the children's faces and eyes. At once interested, wary and shy, they kept on looking at me furtively through the piles of bodies between us, and that game of elusive gazes went on for a few stations until they suddenly stood up, and got off. 

Thanaka face, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Windowvision, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Shades of ochre, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Shy eyes, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The journey within, GM1 + Olympus M Zuiko 45mm
Three hours later, we arrived back at Yangon Central Railway Station. Our legs were a bit stiff, but my camera was packed with many memories, and my heart with a pinch of sadness. But that soon would be fixed with a visit to Yangon's most spectacular landmark: Shwedagon Pagoda.


  1. Another great set of images... very nice indeed.

    1. Thanks a lot, John! Yangon is definitely a place full of charm!