If you only have a short time to spend in Yangon and are considering the things you should see and do, there are two obvious answers that pop out, no matter which list you read. Go and see the Shwedagon pagoda and hop on a ring train taking you around Yangon. And honestly, I could not agree more. Like already mentioned before, Shwedagon pagoda is an attraction you do not want to miss, no matter how many pagodas you’ve seen in your life. But the ring train is something different. It is the fastest way to see different sides of Yangon in just a few hours.
The ring train passes by 39 different stations along a route nearly 50kms in length, taking a total of around three hours. During those hours you’ll get a great glimpse of the various areas around Yangon. You see how the people live, do business, how kids play and how different each section of the route looks like. If you do not have time to explore several different areas of the city, this will certainly give you a good idea of how the city is formed outside the central parts.
The trains depart from the main railway station nearly every 30minutes or so on both directions of the ring route throughout the day. We tried to look up a valid timetable, but did not succeed on that. Luckily the trains are frequent and our hotel reception gave us a good hint on which departure would suit our needs best. Of course you can also hop on at any other station along the route but you are most likely to find the right train from the main station where between the tickets are sold on a small separate counter between tracks 6 and 7.
During the three hours you’ll witness a lot of different activities taking place. The train is very popular among the locals and therefore a great place to see the normal, daily life around Yangon. People hop on and off, vendors sell their goods in the trains. You see people sleeping or watching out of the windows, kids playing next to the tracks and people walking along them. You see different kind of suburbs, from those full of bamboo houses stuck side by side next to a rice field to those with sturdy walls and own gardens.
There really is no better way to witness much more authentic way of living in Yangon that from the windows of the train. Somehow, as I sit on the doorway I find this all very fascinating and the time passes by in a glimpse. After almost two hours on the train, we hop off at a remote station and explore the area a bit, before hopping on to the next train and complete the circle.
Of course you do not need to make the full round, especially if you are in a rush. If you do not have the time to make a full round, you can just hop off at any station and then take the tacit back, or hop on the train going the opposite direction.The tickets cost less than a euro for the full circle. If you happen to hop off, and want to continue with another train later, you need to buy a new ticket. Or at least that is what we were told at the ticket sales.