01.03.2013 - 01.03.2013 39 °C
We got up bright and early today and went down for breakfast. The guest house turns their adjoining mobile phone accessory shop into a dining room at breakfast and puts tables and chairs out in the middle of the shop. We had another full day in Yangon as our bus to Bagan didn’t set of until 6pm so we decided to go on the circle line train. We walked down to the train station at 9.30am and the sun was baking hot even at this time in the morning. We called off at the shops to get some water and sweets and after being directed by a friendly man arrived at the station at 10am. We asked an employee where we can get a ticket for the circle line and he directed us to a little office on the platform that has a sign stating ‘foreigner ticket’. You have to go inside and a man hand writes you out a ticket that looks like it was printed 100 years ago and states that you are traveling from Yangon to Yangon and it costs $1 each. The circle line is basically a local train that goes through all the suburbs of Yangon that local people use to get to outer villages and it goes round in a big circle and takes around 3 hours.
The train was due at 10.10am so we only had to wait 5 minutes. There were around 10 western people waiting for the train at the front of the platform and the rest were locals so we decided to move further down. The carriages are self-contained and have two long bench seats down each side. On the platform a mum showed her baby us and smiled, asking us if we were traveling the whole circle. Lots of people were very intrigued by us and stared and smiled, not only are we different but they probably think why do these people want to pay to go round in a circle on the train for three hours?
We boarded the train and all the seats in the shade immediately get taken up by locals who use the train as part of their daily lives. We sat down and were immediately stared at and smiled at by the people sat opposite. This continued throughout the whole journey with people saying hello and waving at us.
The train journey itself is one of the best things we have done so far. The scenery on the journey is diverse. You go through the outskirts of the city and can see locals living on the track, drying their washing and sat on small plastic chairs and blankets going about their daily lives. You go through the villages and farmlands and the countryside is beautiful, lush green fields with wooden huts scattered throughout.
There are really rural areas, cows and farms, temples and monks as well as some quite urban sights. There were a few areas with huge piles of rubbish and at one point we passed a car dump-it sight with a plethora of cars piled up as far as the eye could see. The lady sat next to Liam had got our attention and pointed outside. We both looked but couldn’t see anything so turned around and smiled but she insisted we keep looking outside. She wanted to show us the cars; there were mountains of cars just thrown on top of one another in a huge heap that went on for ages.
The best part of the journey was when we reached a market stall. The whole station was covered in people selling their items from the farms and the entire floor was covered in baskets and huge bags of fruit, herbs and vegetables. When we came to a stop it was a frantic rush of people trying to get their bags and baskets onto the train. Huge baskets of vegetables came hurtling through all the windows with people running on board to drag them through and within 30 seconds the whole carriage was packed with people stuffing bags under seats and piling baskets on top of one another until the whole floor area was covered. The women sat with their herbs and vegetables sorting the new shoots from the old whilst waiting to get off at their stops and the train smelled amazing.
The people that were already on the train smiled and laughed with us, we must have looked shocked and amused at all the goods pouring in through the windows. Whilst sat on the train the main bulk of traffic that gets on and off are the vendors. They sell all sorts, dried fruits, tea, cold drinks, pastries, rice, ice creams, oranges and betel leaves. There were even people with baskets selling religious DVD’s and a man with a basket full of stationary. Surprisingly he went down really well. The ice cream lady had a polystyrene ice box filled with homemade ice creams and she was delighted when Chelsea decided to have one and watched and smiled all the way through her eating it. It was half strawberry flavoured and half a green unrecognisable flavour that tasted like aftershave and cost 50Ks (0.04p).
After 3 hours our bums were sore and we were hot and clammy but we had enjoyed the ride immensely. It is a lovely way to meet local people and to get an insight into the daily lives of people who live in Yangon and the surrounding villages. It is such a vibrant country and all the people are extremely friendly and smiley.
We walked back towards our guest house and decided to go for lunch. On the way back we walked through a huge flock of pigeons and were laughing and skirting round them. A man was smiling at us and he threw a big hand of bird seed at our feet and laughed at us when all the bird came flying towards us. There are vendors here where you can buy a plate of seeds to give to the birds. We went into a little eatery that was full of locals and ordered unknown dishes from the menu. Liam ordered Sham noodles which were traditional noodles with nuts and chicken and Chelsea ordered potato poori which turned out to be a potato curry, a yoghurt dipping sauce and two fried bread flatbreads. Of course we had several cups of yummy tea, that goes without saying when eating in Yangon.
After lunch we had a few hours before our bus to Bagan. We went for a walk through some streets we had not explored yet and admired temples and old crumbled building of the former colony. Throughout the city there are huge colonial buildings, some still in use, others left to ruin which gives the city and charming faded beauty. Walking through Yangon is like stepping back in time, it is really exciting.
When we were too hot to walk we went to our guest house and waiting an hour. We had to be at the bus station for 5.30pm and it takes about an hour in the taxi to get to the bus stop. It costs 7000Ks to get to the station. One driver refused us and wanted to charge more but his friend agreed to take us for the right amount. Make sure you show your driver your ticket so he can take you to the exact bus stop as the station is HUGE. It took us a long time to get their as the traffic was bad but a large bulk of the journey was navigating inside the bus station. It is like its own town. You can buy anything there, new pots and pans, chairs and tables, food, get a hair-cut, the place is vast and incredibly busy with cars bumper to bumper and people walking and trying to sell bus tickets. We reached our bus stop and boarded almost immediately. The bus cost us 15000Ks We has seats on the back row so could stretch our legs out but neither of us managed to get much sleep. The roads are in quite bad condition and the bus continuously beeps it horn to signal any oncoming traffic. We made regular stops to drop off locals and one 30 minute stop a few hours in to go to the toilet and get some food. That being said though it wasn’t as bad as we imagined and we just tried to sleep the whole journey, it was air conditioned and you got a toothbrush and toothpaste and a bottle of water each.