Unexpectedly finding myself with 7 days in Yangon was not something I was ready for. Having spent so much time there in the past, I had planned only to have one day to deliver my books to the various outlets a one day buffer in case flights didn’t work out.
With a week in hand, I decided to revisit all the spots I had visited on my first trips to Yangon. One of my favourite experiences had been exploring the districts nearby each of the Circular Train stations. Many of the stations and much of the track are currently under renovations as part of the renewal project being undertaken, but I still wanted to spend some time in Yangon Station at least. So, I headed out one morning before sunrise to catch the city waking up and perhaps catch the train for a few stations.
Taking the Pansodan flyover, I found the first difference from my previous trips to Yangon. The bustling crowd was gone from the walkway. Yangon’s infrastructure has improved greatly over the past few years and private care ownership has soared. The combination of a convenient city bus service and private cars has made the once packed circular train a lot less busy.
This trend continued on the platform. I recall on my first trip to Yangon that the circular train platform was nothing short of a marketplace. Sellers would hawk their goods and families would wait for the train with a picnic basket full of food. I do hope that the renewal project is the cause of this and that this beautiful window into the way Yangon functions will return.
Nonetheless, the light was gorgeous and the few people that stepped off every train made for a great morning of photography. Coming from Seoul where buildings are mostly a uniform height and streets are narrow, it was once again a treat to work with early morning light streaming across walls and between cracks.
Getting on the train was the same experience it had always been. Although the station staff now expect visitors to Yangon to ride the train and have tickets and basic explanations ready, the still have no idea where the train will actually stop or which direction it’s going. As the train pulled in, the lady I’d purchased my ticket from ran over and pointed to another platform at the other end of the station and gestured that I should hurry.
Stepping onto the train just as it took off, I walked my way along the carriages and met the eyes of many locals with a warm smile. This is a great way to put people at ease in Myanmar, especially if you plan to be making photographs. Once you acknowledge people has humans like yourself, they’ll go back to whatever they’re doing and generally don’t mind you making photographs around the train. After a couple of quick laps up and down the train, I began to collect a few images that I’d seen on my first pass.
Unlike past times I’d ridden this train, things felt a little more lonely this time around. Quite a few people were riding alone and much of their attention was on the outside world rather than those around them. I decided to make this the focus of my set from this quick ride.