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,