My favorite part of my trip to Myanmar was taking the circular train around Yangon. It was an older, open-air train, full of locals, some with goods to sell at various markets along the way, others just catching a ride to the next town. The train makes a loop around the city and takes about 3 hours. It leaves fairly frequently from the main train station. It cuts through very rural areas of the city. I saw pigs, goats, graffiti, rice paddies, houses on stilts, smiles, chickens headed to market, lots of dogs, factories, greenery, markets…. It was such a beautiful, peaceful ride, although at times I felt as though I was in the shake shack from Grease.
My favorite moment was seeing a young girl from inside the train at one of the 39 stops. She smiled at me and was determined to throw some long green beans to me inside of the train. A few made it inside of the train. When her mom saw what she was doing she couldn’t help but laugh and then give me a big smile.
About 2 hours into the ride, I had to use the restroom so hopped off at the next stop. Across from the station was a small temple. I approached the door and spotted a restroom across the open space. I took off my shoes and said “hello.” A moment later two men approached, dressed in the traditional clothing of a long skirt called a longyi. I asked if I could use the restroom and they brought me right over to it. When I came out they asked if we had had lunch and when we said no, they invited us to sit down and gave us food, food, and more food. There was rice, fish, prawns, okra, spicy sauce, and large bitter peas. They laughed as we tried the bitter peas. They were not appetizing! We dined with about 8-10 men who were eager to speak English with us. We found out that they made breakfast for almost one thousand monks every Monday and Tuesday in the nearby monasteries. As we departed on the train after lunch, we made sure to look up the name of the town at the station. The town was called Myit Ta Nyunt. And it turns out we were only 20 minutes from Yangon!
That afternoon we walked to the Karaweik Palace, which is an enormous floating palace on Lake Kandawgyi. It is currently used as a dinner and show theater. It is enormous and has a direct view of the Shwedagon Pagoda.