Myanmar: Passing time in the Yangon Train Station

Myanmar . . .  land of pagodas, buddhas, monks.  I promise to post some images of “quintessential Myanmar” at a later date.  But today, I am focusing on Yangon and its main train station.

Yangon (formerly, Rangoon) is a bit of a paradox to me.  On the one hand, you have a Buddhist society, manifested magnificently in Shwedagon Pagoda – all gold and glitter and neon lights, with its throngs of worshippers each evening.  The people – open and welcoming.  Eager to chat with travelers.  Quick to smile.  Quick to laugh.

On the other, you have a city coming into itself – and out of its past.  Gritty.  Bustling.  Crowded.  Vibrant.  Growing quickly.  Struggling with change.  Struggling with modernization.

The Yangon train station is fascinating –a step back in time.  There are no sleek modern bullet trains.  No modern tea shops.  I am not even sure there is a ticket booth. . .  just a couple of small windows in a secondary building.  Vendors sell snacks from trays carried along the platforms and brought to the windows of the train cars.  The station is dirty.  The trains are dirty, and old, and rusted, and dark.  There are no panes on the windows.  There are holes in the floors.  The upper class cars have sagging red vinyl seats that appear to date back to the 50’s or 60’s.  In the “common class”, hard wood benches serve as the seating.

The travelers mill about the station waiting for the trains to arrive – or depart.  It is hot and muggy – people move slowly.  Barely a breeze makes it to the station platforms.  The trains wait idly in the station for long periods.  And the people spread out around the platforms or in the train cars . . . waiting.

I spent two mornings hanging around the station.  No one seemed think it too odd that a foreigner was lingering about with a camera.  Mind you, they definitely noticed me.  They were curious as to what I was shooting – and were happy to be my subjects.  And they got such a kick out of seeing their photos on the back of my camera.   It was great fun.  I hope I have done them justice.   Enjoy,

Lisa

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11 Responses to Myanmar: Passing time in the Yangon Train Station

  1. t.on.air says:

    Thanks for the wonderful photos. The people in your pictures look somehow very gentle. I’m glad that Myanmar is beginning to open its heart to the world.

  2. Ursula says:

    Lisa, you ALWAYS do them justice! Wonderful shots.

  3. T.on.air – thank you for the lovely comment. And thanks for reading the blog! Lisa

  4. Carol Chanel says:

    Those photos are amazing. And the joy in the children in the last shot is truly heartwarming. I love your written description of the station and the trains. A great way to enhance your fantastic shots!
    Keep em coming Lisa!

  5. Mary Rose Mueller says:

    Lisa, Your description, poetic; your photos, art. Both will stay with me and are sure to inspire my view and consideration of train stations in the future. Best, Mary-Rose

  6. Carol and Mary Rose (my biggest fans!) – thank you so much for the kind words and support!

  7. Catherine Wisner says:

    Ah, I see what you ended up doing with your extra days..great idea, great photos. Loved traveling with you..look forward to our next adventure together.

  8. BitOfLight says:

    I absolutely love your portraits. You have definitely shown us the the beauty and the spirit of the Burmese people.

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