Local Life
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Myanmar

Yangon Circle Train

Think it would be hard to experience Yangon like a local? Think again – as you ride the Yangon circle train! The train goes around Yangon exposing city, rural and market scenery.

Local vendors jump on and off the ride selling all sorts of food and drink. But you do want to bring your own water, trust me on this.

We cut the 3 hour ride short at about the 2 hour mark, as our Flashpack tour group was heading out to BBQ Alley in Chinatown.

The Nitty Gritty

Best time of dayGo as early as you can muster so as to stay out of the midday heat.
Earliest train is around 6.00am, last one that completes the circle is around 5.00pm
Best gearIf you're going with a DSLR, a walkaround lens would work.
Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II

But the close quarters can mean something more discreet like a point-and-shoot or a phone would be less intrusive.
Canon's great new p&s with full manual control - the G9 X
OtherBuy the tickets on the platform itself. They should be 200 kyat.
Carry your own bottled water.

Getting on the Circle Train

The easiest way to get the train is to go to platform 7 at the Yangon Railway Station (marked on the map below) and buy your 200 kyat ticket from the nice agent.

While you’re at the station – keep your eyes open. I love the lines of train stations, the tracks as well as the platform. You can use that perspective to draw the viewer’s eye.

When this young lady in the vivid red dress walked by, I just had to take a shot to capture the pop of red.

Read more about using lines and color to get a striking photo.

Yangon Circle Train

Exposure
1/1250s ƒ/7.1 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
35mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 11:41 am

Once you get on the train, it slowly circles through 38 stations with a variety of photo opportunities on and off the train.

You’ll see vendors selling their wares such as quail eggs, sweets, paan and fruit on the train, local markets at the stations selling lunch, fruit and vegetables and everything else.

You’ll also get to see a little of the rural areas near Yangon out the window, as well as some of the poorer areas.

On the Train

Do you find it hard to shoot people who are 2 feet away with your giant DSLR? Me too!

I really don’t want to be in people’s faces as they go about their daily business. I just think how much I would hate that on my own commute.

So I go all stealth, which usually means I end up using the articulating screen on my 70d and holding the camera at waist height.

Burmese mother and child

Exposure
1/320s ƒ/6.3 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
79mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 12:56 pm

Using a phone or a point and shoot is also a good deal less intrusive than pointing a giant camera at your fellow passengers.

This Canon G7 X point and shoot even has an articulating screen.

Passengers on Yangon Circle Train

Exposure
1/60s ƒ/7.1 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
18mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 12:14 pm

If you point down the length of the train, you can really capture the feel of being on the ride, and even the funny looks you get for your big camera.

Don’t worry though, people are usually very friendly and may chat with you if they feel like it.

Photography on Yangon Circle Train

Exposure
1/125s ƒ/6.3 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
20mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 12:41 pm

One thing I didn’t quite capture is how humid and sticky it was. We took the train around noon – bad move!

Since the train moves slowly, there’s not a lot of wind entering the car as you move.

I really recommend taking the earliest train you can as it should be cooler earlier in the day.

The View Outside

I had read a bunch about the circle train before we went, so I was prepared to be sitting there shooting out the window.

So I was pretty surprised to find that the windows are heavily-tinted at the bottom, and only open up top.

My suggestion? Stand up – you not only get to shoot out the window, but also get to catch a breeze. Phew.

As you approach the station, get ready to shoot. That’s when you’re most likely to catch some good scenes, vendors, markets.

When you shoot, try to shoot parallel to the scene and not at an angle. Because you’re already shooting from a higher viewpoint, shooting parallel will avoid an awkward perspective that screams “I shot this out a train window!”

Yangon Station Markets

Exposure
1/1250s ƒ/6.3 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
18mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 1:31 pm

By the way, I totally love this lady smoking a cigar. I really wish I could have zoomed in and focused in on her – got to be quick on the trigger from a moving train.

Yangon Circle Train Photography

Exposure
1/500s ƒ/6.3 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
72mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 1:31 pm

Yangon Station

Exposure
1/320s ƒ/7.1 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
135mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 12:13 pm

Lunch Ladies

When you stop at the stations, you’ll get a number of vendors getting on and off the train.

This enterprising lunch lady carried a little stool and her tray of food. If a passenger wanted a meal, she’d set down her stool and make a quick lunch for them, starting with grating some fresh cabbage.

It was my second day in Myanmar so I wasn’t quite ready to risk a train lunch – you willing to give a shot?

Lunch on the Circle Train

Exposure
1/80s ƒ/6.3 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
59mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 1:33 pm

 

Vendor balancing goods

Exposure
1/200s ƒ/6.3 @ ISO 1600
Focal Length
59mm
Camera
Canon EOS 70D
Date & Time
September 27, 2016, 12:52 pm

Final Words

So there you have it – a cheap, easy way to get an authentic, local experience and see some of Yangon.

The train lasts 3 hours and you can get on and off, but do watch out for the latest train so you don’t miss it.

If you’re pretty close to the city, you can take a taxi back too, which is what we did.

Are you going to take the Yangon Circle train?

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Read More: TravelFish covers the Yangon Circle Train.

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Shimona Carvalho
Photographer, Engineer, Traveler who wants to help you take incredible photographs on your next trip.
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