Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule – The Circular Train Yangon

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

The one thing I strongly recommend you to do in Yangon is travel with Yangon Circular Train. The cheapest way and you get to experience how local live their daily lives and get to see  and to smell the real Myanmar. This is so real and is everyday routine in Yangon.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

The whole track loop of 45.9 km take 3 hours to complete. There are stops at 39 stations. The ride could be bumpy and true old-fashioned train style with no air-conditional. Please be warned. If you think the 3 hours ride is too much, you can just choose a portion of the route.  My journey started from Pyay Road Station and end at Central Station.  Each station, the train stop for 2-3 mins.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

Yangon Circular Train is the cheapest mode of transport, just less than a dollar you get to see the city and outskirt of Yangon. It also carries between 100,000 and 150,000 passengers daily. A great way of seeing how Burmese people live.

Get your ticket at the ticketing booth, everything is pretty manual.  Tell the train station ticketing staff where you want to go and he will give you the directions in English.  My ride is only 200 kyat ( USD $ 0.15 / SGD $ 0.20) as I did not choose to do the complete circle route which need 3 hours.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

Pyay Road Station is a small station which only has two platforms.  If you go to Central Station, it can be quite confusing as there are several tracks.  Please ask around which platform to board on the train.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

When you are at the platform, you notice the Burmese (Myanmar people) are very relaxing people, you see them lying down on the bench or sitting on the floor.  Most people are wearing sandals and not shoes as it is easier for them to take off the shoes when entering temples complexes.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

The Yangon Circular Train was built by the British in 1954 but I noticed the trains used were Japanese old trains many decades ago. I spotted Kanji writing beside the door of the train.  Japan own JR Rail and you can see “JR” (Japan Rail) printed at the train.  These trains are steam-heated trains as there are smoke coming out from the pipe of the train. Diesel are used and it is quite rare to see such train these day.  Comfort are scarce in the oldest carriages; the bench seats are hard. I am not sure if you can survive the 3 hours ride in this train but half an hour to an hour is bearable.

There are even older trains which are Hungarian imports from the 1960s.  Quite an antique!

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

My train finally came and I was so excited to hop into the train.  Beware of the gap between the train and the platform, it is quite big.  If you are wearing sandals, don’t drop them to the track.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

Once you have boarded the train, you see more interesting thing. The train is like a local market, people coming up and down at each stop selling fruits, water, newspaper, betel leaf, live chicken etc.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

Passenger buying fruits from the fruit seller.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

The trains move pretty slow and you can see passengers sometimes hop on and off while the train is still moving. The train has no doors.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

When the train goes farther from the center of Yangon, you will encounter more natural and rustic landscape. The scenery changes gradually from city concrete buildings to paddy field and buffalos. You even see big local market sit right beside the train track and the downside  is the garbage dumping was kind of scary. Very filthy. Traveling does not always gurantee you to see the best sight of a place, you need to see the real world and Circular Train Yangon provide that insight of a local walks of life.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

You see women bring goods on their head to market for sales, merchant carrying multiple big bags of goods, loading goods at one station and unloading them at another. Children in school uniform and monks commuting the Yangon Circular Train. Many aspects of local life are reflected here.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

People just crossing the tracks without using the over bridge as the platform is quite low.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

Below picture was taken from the over bridge in Yangon Central Station – the biggest station in Yangon.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

Final thoughts :

Come as soon as possible, else this scene will be gone forever when Yangon city getting more developed. The Japanese is going to help revamped the rail track in 2020 which mean it would lose a lot of character and some part of the history will be lost forever. The Yangon Circular train is like time capsule which bring me back to the olden days, probably in the 50’s – 60’s. This is also the place to interact with genuine local Burmese people. They are friendly and always put a smile on their “painted” face. This is truly a highly recommended trip for just 200 kyat (USD $0.15), you get to observe the interesting daily life of Burmese people and it is so different from our city life.

Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule - The Circular Train Yangon

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61 Replies to “Myanmar : Travel back to the Past with Time Capsule – The Circular Train Yangon”

    1. Dear Christina,

      Thanks for your comment. It is truly an interesting ride back to the 50s and 60s. I have seen China but nothing compare to this. Even outskirt of China is quite developed and are using the “Bullet train”. Yangon Circular Train is a must do and can’t be missed. Love the ride to the max as it has helped me realised & be grateful to what I have back home.

  1. Wow! This sounds so nice…I’ve always loved train rides no matter how old fashioned and bumpy they can get and I love that you also cherish that. Seeing the green route would be so great! It’s so natural!

  2. Oh no it will be really sad to see something like the circular train disappear when everything gets modernized. How fascinating , absolutely love the fact that real people are using it to do real things and the whole market thing that happens on the train too. So lovely.

    1. Dear Michelle,

      Myanmar is quite backward compared to other part of Asia. Probably the least developed country that I have ever seen so far. The country only opened up not long ago and tourism is still slow. Compared to China which was opened up in 1978 and took more than 30 years to become one of the top tourism destination in the world. What we see in Yangon circular train will be disappearing soon and it is just a matter of time.

  3. Wow, i’d love to be able to show my kids this amazing piece of culture someday. Its nice to step outside of your comfort zone and do new things.

    1. Dear Kansas,

      I can’t agree more. Let the kids to see how people from other part of the world live and realize how lucky they are. That way they could appreciate more of what they have back home.

    1. Dear Amanda,

      The country has been one of the most isolated countries in the world but get more open up in 2011 when the new government took office. There will be more improvement for the country and people life should get better. Tourism is still growing so much slower than their neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam. However Myanmar certainly has lots of potential 🙂 Plenty of interesting sites and full of culture and history.

  4. Your pictures remind me of Indonesia. It also has a very laid back ambiance and the people are very warm and friendly.
    I would also love to try riding the train. I agree that it has a lot of character and it also has that old-world look to it.
    Oh! And lastly, I so love your batik skirt! 🙂

    1. Yes, it is very laid back ambiance as you see most people sitting on the floor of the platform or even lying down. You are right, the long skirt I wore is batik skirt. Batik print is more of Indonesia & Malaysia traditional arts, bought it in Malaysia. Glad you manage to spot it.

  5. That surely looks like a journey back in time. The train, the stations and the surroundings look like they are taken directly from the 50’s. I would like to do this train trip.

  6. Would love to travel there and ride the train. Since I’ve never been on a train ever. And to get to see he culture first hand such an experience!

  7. What a fascinating and authentic way to see the sights – you’re descriptions make Yangon come to life, and pictures are wonderful. If I ever get to Burma, I’ll certainly take a ride on the Circular Train!

    1. Dear Susan,

      The Japanese is helping the Myanmar rail track to revamp in 2020 so go as early as possible, else it is not going to be a time capsule train but a “back to the future train” 🙂

  8. My son is obsessed with trains! We travel quite a bit but haven’t made it to Myanmar yet. We’re planning a big trip for next spring to Southeast Asia. I can’t wait!

  9. This post about Myanmar reminds me so much of some towns in my home country, Nigeria. By seeing and experience their lives, one becomes appreciative of the comfort they enjoy. However, these people are usually the happiest and most contented. Thank you for sharing xx

    1. Dear Bibi,

      The ride is certainly worth to do it even though it is not a luxury train experience. This is real life of Yangon. You will notice people who commute on the train are not rich but this is how they live their daily life. I find it super interesting when the train is also like a market when people buy and sell things. Think about it, it actually saving time for them to do some shopping in the train 🙂

    1. Dear Brittany,

      The clothing for Myanmar people are quite colorful, especially for women. Both men and women wearing longyi, which look like a skirt. It is quite facinating to see all the people in the streets or trains wearing skirt walking freely. Lol.

    1. Dear Ana,

      Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is backward and old fashioned but things are cheap. The country has plenty of history to offer but then the infrastructure aren’t developed enough. Things should get better from now as it just changed the new government from 2011 after 50 years of military ruling.

    1. Traveling is not about enjoying good food & good scenery. Traveling is an experience to get more realization. The Time capsule train has just did that. I agree with you, always do as the locals do. There is a saying ” When in Rome, do as the Romans do ” 🙂

  10. I don’t think I will ever get there, since I live over here in Maine, USA, but this certainly looks like a fun and even educational experience. It would be really interesting to learn more about another culture and participate in it even for a day.

    1. Dear DrKLee,

      Sometimes traveling can be painful and powerless especially when you realised you have taken thing for granted. Yes, it is really great learning experience for me despite the bumpy ride and smoky atmosphere in the train.

    1. Dear Rachel,

      Great to expose city kids to see how other part of the world live. I am sure the experience will give awareness and introduce them greater diversity. In the time capsule train, they would see many scenes that is only happen in the past 🙂

    1. Dear Olivia,

      This is also the cheapest way to see how the local live their daily life. Steam heated train, hard seat, non air-cond, old fashioned train. You will be also encountering livestock in the train. Hahaha.

  11. That looks like a wonderful place to visit! Travelling back in time must have been a wonderful experience. Hope that I’ll have a chance to visit this place before it gets more developed and destroyed by people. 🙂

    1. Dear Natalia,
      This is still very backward compared to many other parts of Asia. I think is one of the poorest country due to the shut down for more than 50 years from 1962-2011. The country was under military rule for 50 years. I think the country is getting better and better so the time capsule train will be disappearing soon. In a way, it is good for the local Myanmar people as life improved.

  12. Wow, you did capture that trip beautifully. I can just imagine how magical it must be, it’s like a trip back in time for sure. Wish I could experience it before they re-build and modernize it.

  13. I love railtrack scenes… these types of location shows you so much about the culture of a city… Wow! Japanese people are really into this help/assistance to other countries.. hats off to them!

  14. This looks like it would be such an amazing and unique experience. I would love to be able to go see a different country one day.

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